When I arrived at my son Baron’s school today, he and his kindergarten buddies were wearing leis and flip-flops freshly decorated with googly eyes and were eating Jell-O the color of the Caribbean Sea. Their cubbies were newly cleaned, aside from the stray and long-emptied juice box and the scruffed markings of a sticker, as if its removal was done frantically. Tomorrow we take him to school one last time as a kindergartner. He and his classmates will sing us some songs, we’ll celebrate at a nearby park and then walk away heralding in our summer.
In preparation for these long, sun-filled days, we started our list of things we hope to accomplish during these next few months. There are books to read, stories to write and games to play. There’s also the return of his lemonade stand and the hope of a booming business. And then there are the activities that without their presence in the coming months, it just wouldn’t feel like summer.
I can’t wait to feel the dirt under my nails and crusted on my knees while tucked in between the tight rows of lush strawberries. When the warm air sweeps between the plants and carries up a sweet scent, that’s when I know it’s summer. Or when the kids are content to play in the frigid water from the hose for hours, pausing for a quick break to snap off a blueberry from our bushes or a crisp sugar snap pea with its tender tendrils wrapping around the pole tucked into the dirt, that’s when I know it’s summer.
In the kitchen, it’s summer when a salad of fresh sliced vegetables shimmies up to a grilled piece of fish or chicken. It’s when a bowl of freshly picked strawberries, blueberries or peaches bathing in cream is just about the best you’ve ever tasted. When pasta tossed simply with a heap of freshly chopped vegetables and a bit of soft goat cheese is about as complicated as dinner gets, that’s summer. Even better yet, is a crusty and craggy piece of bread slathered with butter or mayo with flecks of basil throughout and topped with a thickly sliced ruby red tomato sprinkled with salt and maybe a splash of extra virgin olive oil, if I’m feeling fancy.
These months beg for simplicity—days unplanned and toes wet and cold from having spent the afternoon chasing the waves. The food of this season confirms this ease by being naturally sweet, intensely flavorful and bountiful. It’s as if summer has already cooked for us. So let’s enjoy the long days and return the favor by eating simply and well.
by Ashley Rodriguez