Friday, September 9, 2011

Last of the Summer thrills (part one :)

Ahhh... Summertime and the outdoor life! Growing up near the border of Mexico surrounded by orange and lemon groves, eucalyptus trees and mustard fields nestled between gently rolling hills gave me the start to my love affair with nature and warm weather. The Pacific Ocean, surfers, and sandy beaches were a mere 5 miles away. 

Blue skies, puffy white clouds, soft summer breezes and room to roam are my clearest and best memories. If you add to those, fresh vine- bush- and tree-ripened fruit perfuming the air and bursting with juice, you’ve got my idea of Heaven. 

In honor of those days -and the awesome high temperatures we’re enjoying here in our mountain valley between the volcanoes- I'm going to be waxing poetic on a few of my favorite seasonal pleasures. 

This first one harks back to that childhood of long ago. My dad would cut sweet, golden, fragrant cantaloupes in half and spoon out the seeds to form a bowl. Into that bowl he'd put a scoop of rich, creamy, vanilla ice cream. Voila! an instant individual-serving treat. I made a point to insure each spoonful had both melon and ice cream in it. 

Papa Baker doesn’t share this particular passion, having different ideas of 'delicious', and foregoes the ice cream-in-melon (“..but hey, I’ll take the ice cream as a second course!”). A sprinkle of sea salt suits him much better. 

Just the other day, while slicing cantaloupe to pack in his lunch, I learned it’s always puzzled him that I cut them open along the ‘equator’ instead of blossom to stem end. 

‘Hmm… I don’t know why I do it the round-y round way. I’ve never really thought about it; it’s just the way I’ve always done it.’ 

I momentarily puzzled on the ‘why' & remembered that old-fashioned summer treat of ice cream in the melon bowl. It’d become a natural habit to just always cut them into a 'bowl' even if I was just slicin' and dicin' or serving my other favorite style: slicing and making cross cuts, but not all the way through, so it can be bent backwards and pop up little cantaloupe mountains that can be easily eaten straight from the rind. That's how we did it for our tadpoles (see exhibit 'A' ..for Abby, naturally :)

Papa pointed out that when I cut 'em open my way it always makes for an indented weird piece (where the stem is) in the lengthwise slices. Plus, that makes it off-kilter when you go to cut the wedges off the rind to make chunks. All these years of habitual slicing and it dawns on me how right he is! 

…funny how many things we do, with nary a thought, that have their foundation in an old family tradition.

So what did I gain from this little domestic kitchen experience? 1) Vanilla ice cream added to the marketing list and 2) a return to an old favorite summer treat. Oh. Ya. and my new improved method for slicing melons :P 

So it only took me several decades to learn the ‘normal’ way to cut cantaloupe wedges. I'm living proof that you can teach an old dog (or dame ;) new tricks.

**Word of caution** 
The melon must be truly sweet for it to compliment the addition of vanilla ice cream. Ripening tip: get as nice and yellow a melon as you can. See if you get a good cantaloupe-y scent from the stem end. Put the melon in a paper bag to ripen up, checking daily to make sure it doesn’t go bad. 

With today’s poor marketing tactics there is no hope for the melons picked so early they rot before they ripen, but I have been seeing great success (mostly) with the paper bag trick. When necessary I use a sprinkling of stevia to help an already cut melon be a bit more acceptable...


  1. Aww good first post Mama... I miss good melons, eat one for me :)

  2. Okay then, I'll add 'eat a sweet melon for Abby' to my list of things to do today =) And how 'bout that yummy little girl with her blonde curls tied up in the pink kerchief?!? You were such a little cutie!