Cleaning out the Basement–Summer

cover summer

Summer, edited by Alice Gordon and Vincent Virga, Addison-Wesley Publishing 1990, hardback, 252 pages

“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.”

Paul Prudhomme

Summer reading is usually a novel with “girls” disappearing, having tattoos, or parsing shades of gray. Or one of those airport potboilers that I fear are filling up the world’s landfills.

But summer is such an evocative season, it inspires some transportive writing.

I likely found this book on a remainder table–who would not be captured by that slice of watermelon–and for many summers I made a point of pulling it off the shelf to re-read when the weather was warm and the cicadas were singing.

It was published in 1990, on the cusp of the internet. Now you can google a dimly remembered or mangled phrase, title, or author’s name and be deluged. And if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll find something just as interesting.

But it’s nice to unearth these essays, poems, and illustrations carefully set out like a cabinet of curiosities to be reviewed in a quiet moment. The essays reflected on light, family visits, the change and realizations brought about by a sudden break in routine.

And they also talk about food. Louise Erdrich surveys her garden, her gardening habits and how they connect her to her past and future. Phyllis McGinley recalls sand-seasoned sandwiches at the beach. John Updike, amid fireworks and station wagons, calls on the iconic July 4th foods–clambakes, corn-on-the cob, and beer.

And the “culinary spectacles,” as recalled by Marianne Gingher, that appear when the grandchildren come to visit–“twelve-egg angel food cake with cups of boiled custard on the side for dunking, Coronation Butterscotch Pie, Granny’s Graham Cracker Roll, Hundred Dollar Chocolate Cake…”.

It all confirms what we know. Food links us to our families, our memories and our selves.For me, it’s corn-on-the-cob at nearly every meal. So, it’s summer–go make your food.


About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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