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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Groundhogs & Melons

I've waited all summer for my beloved sweet juicy Casey County melons to appear at the market. Yeah, cantalope and honeydew melons have popped up at the market during the summer, but the ripest  late season Casey County melons have finally arrived.  They taste richer and  sweeter this time of year, as if bathing in the hot summer humidity while clinging to thier vines intensifies their ripening.

We lugged a gigantic Casey County melon home  from the market this past weekend. It wasn't the biggest one in the pile, but with a firm slight give to the rind, it felt the way a melon should feel. Knowing I would have melon envy, I convinced myself that the largest one was overly ripe and would've exploded with the slightest touch. We certainly didn't need that on a beautiful Saturday morning. Envy avoided.

A few minutes after unloading our market stash on the kitchen table, both Michael and I  noticed that our entire house smelled like fresh melon. Crazy.  Without even slicng the melon, it perfumed our entire  house with the scent of summer.  Michael walked into the kitchen and exclaimed, with child-like glee, "It smells like Granny's kitchen." I've nevered smelled ripe summer melons in his Granny Hallie's kitchen, but I've been in her kitchen plenty of times over the years (for every season) and could understand his joy.

The aroma swept me back to my father's summer garden.  For years, he and Marge had a gloriously huge garden.  Their house was nestled on a slight slope under a canopy of oak trees, overlooking fields that eventually spilled into a tree guarded lake.  Their 1/2 acre garden  was meticulously plotted behind the house where the gentle slope flattened out into the remaining fields. I loved that house.  Our house. During the warm summer months we'd sit on the second story open-aired deck, while gazing down onto the garden,  and eat our evening meals. My father always had a shotgun within arms reach. On most nights, a groundhog would eventually  rear his head through the cucumber rows, tomato plants, or cabbage leaves. Without a break  in the conversation, Dad would reach for his shotgun and blow its head off.

It was normal.

Aside from garden tomatoes, my father adored his fresh melons.  He always ate them at room temperature with a sprinking of salt and a dash of ground pepper. As a kid, I thought that was weird.  To this day, I eat garden melons the way he did.  Sweet salty juices with a slight peppery bite.

I'm contantly fascinated with the power of food. Familiar flavors and aromas are electric, having the power to transport us anywhere at any time.

One huge fresh market melon swept Michael back to his grandmother's cozy kitchen.

I drifted away into memories my father's garden.

With headless groundhogs 

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