Category Archives: Summer

A Cool Summertime Recipe

We are in the midst of the Dog Days of Summer: they began when July was new, when Sirius, the Dog Star, began rising with the sun. Early astronomers thought the combination of Sirius rising with the sun made for the hottest days of the year. This annual phenomenon remains with us, as it does each year, until the Eleventh of August, when Sirius and the sun once again go their separate ways, thus ending the Dog Days of Summer once more.

It’s been unbearably hot just about everywhere this month. Here, too, the temperatures are running higher than normal: low to mid 90s, rather than the more typical 89 or so, and those few degrees make a big difference. As meals go, it is definitely a time for lighter fare, and today, on the approach to the ancient Roman festival of Neptunalia & Salacia (it falls on July 23), I’ve got the perfect meal to cool things down a bit, and today’s chapter of the Convivio Book of Days comes with a delicious recipe. It’s a Florida recipe that’s born somewhat out of necessity: an attempt to use up some of the local mangoes that are everywhere here come high summer.

And I know the current madness emanating from Tallahassee has not done much for our popularity (I’m with you on that), but let it be known that Florida has delivered some incredible contributions to the national cuisine: We’ve brought you hushpuppies, fried up from cornmeal and chopped onions and beer. We’ve brought you key lime pie, of course. And we’ve even brought you the half & half you pour into your coffee each morning (it was invented right here in Lake Worth at Boutwell Dairy in the early 20th century). Today’s recipe is one you can add to that list. It’s a recipe I adapted from one I picked up from my neighbor Margaret. It’s the perfect accompaniment to fish or chicken, though in this house, it’s always fish, and as such, it is perfect for Neptunalia & Salacia, when the Romans celebrated Neptune, the sea god, and his wife Salacia, goddess of the salty sea. It’s also perfect for any time you need a cooling light supper on an oppressively hot day.

M A N G O   W A T E R M E L O N   S A L S A
Best served over fish (we like haddock or mahi-mahi or snapper best). Measurements are approximate. The chopping takes some time, but if you make the salsa early in the day, the actual meal comes together at dinnertime in just a few minutes––just as long as it takes for the fish and the rice to cook.

4 mangoes, peeled and pitted
1/2 small round watermelon, preferably seedless
1 small red onion, peeled
2 jalapeño or poblano peppers
fresh cilantro
salt & pepper

Chop, into a small dice, the mangoes, the watermelon, the red onion, and the peppers and combine together in a large bowl. Take care to remove any stray watermelon seeds. I prefer a salsa that is mostly watermelon with almost as much mango, while the red onion and green peppers add their particular colors to the mix in a smaller proportion. Add chopped fresh cilantro to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Chill for at least a few hours, or overnight. Mango Watermelon Salsa will keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 or 4 days. Serve over fish that’s been baked or grilled or pan-fried. Basmati rice makes a nice accompaniment to the fish and salsa. Works equally well over chicken, and perhaps even grilled pork tenderloin.

If you have the luxury of choice, as we do here in Lake Worth, my favorite mangoes for this recipe are Haden mangoes, which we grow here, or Jewel mangoes, which grow at my family’s home nearby. There are some mangoes that have a distinct turpentine taste; I do not like those for this recipe.

Mango season here is quickly coming to a close. Our tree has completed its run for the year, as has Mom’s tree. I’ve heard it said that if you live here in South Florida and you find yourself buying mangoes from the market in summer, then you need to seriously reconsider who you call “friend.” There are so many mango trees here, almost everyone knows someone who has a glut of the fruit in July. They’re delicious, but let’s face it: you can only eat so many. Mango Watermelon Salsa is a most delicious way to get through four of them. Enjoy the meal, as you raise your glasses to each other on Neptunalia & Salacia and every summertime meal.

 

SUMMER HIGH FIVE SALE!
Enjoy $5 off your order of $35 or more when you use discount code HIGH5 at checkout. Take it to $75 and you’ll earn free domestic shipping, too. Use the deal on Millie’s Tea Towels or on anything else in the shop. Click here to shop! And if you love mangoes, you may equally love our limited edition handmade book, Putting Up Mangoes. It’s a tale I wrote about overwhelming subtropical abundance. You can even use the HIGH5 discount code for $5 off the book!

 

 

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To the Sea, or Your July Book of Days

I made the realization this past week that once Midsummer is past, I am pretty much done with summer. I live near the 26th parallel north, and this may have something to do with it. It gets hot here in summer. I also just discovered that the 26th parallel north is the most populous circle of latitude on Earth. Not only does it cross Florida and Mexico, it also crosses Southern China and the Indian subcontinent and straight though Northern Africa, too. All very warm places. And I can imagine most everyone along this parallel thinking, once Midsummer passes, in their own native language, the very same thing I am thinking, which is this: Summer is just now digging in its heels. We still have three months of this to go.

Why do so many of us live in such warm places? I don’t understand it, until it’s January and my teeth are chattering when the temperature dips into the 40s. In July, though, it is easy to despair here over the heat and the humidity. In fact, the Dog Days of Summer just begin now, on the Third of July, as Sirius, the Dog Star, begins its annual rising with the sun each morning. Our ancestors believed the two stars rising together intensified the heat, and though that’s not exactly how it works, it sure feels right. These Dog Days will continue through the 11th of August, at which point Sirius and the sun separate again until next year.

The good news for us here in Lake Worth is that the Atlantic Ocean is just a quick trip across the lagoon, and a day at the seaside is a welcome one when it is this hot. That is the theme of your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for July, featuring a seaside painting by American painter Walt Kuhn. The calendar is, as usual, a printable PDF and a fine companion to this blog. Click here to get yours.

The theme is fitting considering July brings the celebration of Neptunalia & Salacia on the 23rd. This festival of Ancient Rome honored Neptune, the sea god, and his wife Salacia, goddess of the salty sea. July also brings a string of national celebrations: Canada Day on the First, Independence Day here in the States on the Fourth, and Bastille Day in France on the 14th. There are many saints’ days to mark; the most famous of them perhaps being the old weather maker of St. Swithin’s Day on the 15th. It is the month, too, of Tanabata, the lovely Star Festival of Japan, when wishes are written on paper and tied to the trees.

Come month’s end it will be Lammas Eve, and Lammas, the First Harvest festival on the First of August, brings our annual acknowledgment that summer is ripening and autumn is not far behind. Unless you happen to live along the 26th parallel. If you do, summer is that house guest that’s not going anywhere for a long long time. You may as well get used to its presence.

SUMMER HIGH FIVE SALE

Here’s a “lighter fare” sale for summer: Enjoy a quick & easy $5 off your purchase of $35 on everything in the store with discount code HIGH5 at checkout. Plus domestic orders of $75 or more ship free! CLICK HERE to shop (and to see a photo of my mom, circa 1950, fishing pole in hand, wearing cool shades and plaid in a row boat).

 

Image: “Bathers on a Beach” by Walt Kuhn. Oil on canvas, 1915. Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Pride, Flamboyants, & Your June Book of Days

Here in Lake Worth, the Royal Poinciana trees are beginning to erupt into red and orange blossoms, as they do each and every June. Of all the flowering trees here in this strange green land, the Royal Poincianas are the most majestic, the most magical, and perhaps the best reason to be in this place as summer’s heat begins to dig in its heels. Some folks call them Flame Trees, and in Brazil, I’ve just learnt, they are called Flamboyants. And our cover star for this month’s Convivio Book of Days Calendar is called just that: it’s a circa 1928 oil painting by Brazilian artist Lucílio de Albuquerque of our beloved local trees, which apparently bloom in Brazil, as well (though certainly at the opposite side of the year, as their summer approaches in December).

The June calendar may be belated this year, but luckily not much is going on, calendar-wise, until mid month, when the Feast of St. Anthony of Padua comes around. San Antonio was one of Grandma’s favorites, as saints go, and still to this day when we have misplaced something we call on him to help us find it. My most recent find was a novel I’d been reading, Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy. I was in the final chapter last fall when suddenly the book was no where to be found. I looked and looked, and then I despaired, and then I remembered the words, “Tony, Tony, come around; something’s lost and must be found,” but Tony was slow to respond and I forgot all about it until one day last month when I was organizing the printshop and found, there behind one of the type cabinets, my book. Would I have found it without St. Anthony’s help? Possibly. I thanked him all the same and remembered the day my nephew lost a gold bracelet not once but twice at the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and both times Mom prayed to St. Anthony and both times, the bracelet was found: once washing in on the tide, and then again clinging to some sea foam covered seaweed. To be sure, Mom’s patience was tried with the second loss, and I bet so was St. Anthony’s. As for my Thomas Hardy novel, I’ve decided to start again at the beginning. Luckily, the way my mind works, it’s like I’m reading it for the first time, and the ending will certainly be a surprise as I never reached it last year. It is good, sometimes, to have a mind that resets on a regular basis.

After St. Anthony’s Day comes Bloomsday and Juneteenth and Juneteenth feels particularly important this year here in a state where books about African American history and by African American authors are being banned left and right, not to mention the fact that June is also Pride Month and the same is happening to the LGBQT community here, too. I know people who think these new laws here in Florida are not so bad but I wonder if anyone has bothered to ask the kids which they think is scarier: drag queens or active shooter drills. Let’s be honest: this is not about protecting children; it’s about silencing the voices of minorities. It began here as a K through 5 initiative but was recently expanded to Grade 12, and at the state university where I work, anything with the word Diversity attached to it has been scrubbed and the exhibition I was planning for the fall semester, an exhibition of artists’ books by John Eric Broaddus, a gay book artist who died of AIDS in 1990, has been canceled. Welcome to Florida, Land of Big Government. Here, the First Amendment only applies if you agree with the powers that be. Dissenting voices –– certainly at least half of us in this state –– are referred to as “Those People” and we find ourselves not represented at all by our elected officials for we are held up not as fellow citizens but as the enemy.

I find myself in the Those People camp because I do not agree with all these acts of restriction and suppression. And I find myself talking about this here and now because it is Pride Month. And it is not the rainbows and the pronouns that matter to me so much (I’m an English major; the pronoun thing is tough even for me, purely for grammatical reasons) but what matters to me is authenticity, and this, I think, is the value of Pride: letting people know it is ok to be themselves. Even now in my position at work I see young people who are afraid to come out to the people they love most for fear of rejection: they are afraid their parents won’t accept them. They are afraid of being disowned, afraid of being suddenly homeless, afraid of losing the love of those they love. So they sneak around pretending to be something they are not. Dishonesty is never a sound foundation for a relationship. Being open and honest with the ones you love and with the world around you: that’s what Pride is about. It’s a process I had to go through, and let me tell you: it is not easy. But it should be, and that, too, is what Pride is about. I wish all of you, no matter who you are, authenticity in your lives, and love and acceptance, and the openness to accept others for who they are.

While Pride is focused on the things of this earth, there are greater celestial events at play, too. As June comes to a close we reach the summer solstice. It is one of the few times each year traditionally considered a time of heightened magic, and you may do with that what you may. I like to seek the wonderful in life (and let’s look closely at that word: Wonderful ––> Wonder-full: full of wonder, that which is moving and surprising and astounding) and so I have always been open to the idea that there is more than meets the eye in life and that strange things sometimes still happen. Thanks to the tilt of our planet, there are two solstices each year, no matter where you are on this vast globe. In our annual circle each year around the sun, it is in June when the Northern Hemisphere reaches the apex of its tilt toward the sun, giving us our longest days. And of course the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere: it is December when the Southern Hemisphere reaches the apex of its tilt to the sun, when we here in the North are in winter. These points in the year have held great significance to people the world over for thousands of years. The Church gave these points in the year significance, too: to the June solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, it assigned the birth of John the Baptist, and to the December solstice, the birth of Jesus Christ. Both times have their heightened magic. Here at Midsummer, it is especially potent on St. John’s Eve, the night of the 23rd of June. It’s a wonder-full time to be alive.

While I don’t expect everyone to agree with my views on Pride Month and on the current state of affairs here in Florida, I do hope that if you disagree and wish to express this in the comments, that you will do so respectfully and with civility. For those of you who do agree with me (and perhaps even for those who don’t), here is a recent edition of Story Corps that is, I think, just perfect. It’s a 3 minute 30 second video called The Saint of Dry Creek. For me, this story really speaks to the heart of Pride: Being honest with yourself and those you love. “Don’t sneak around.”

 

Image: “Flamboyants” by Lucílio de Albuquerque. Oil on canvas, circa 1928, Museu Antônio Parreiras. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

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