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Stirring up memories


Happy summer
June 21, 2006

Happy summer, friends. At 8:26 a.m. this morning summer officially begins—it's the summer solstice. At noon the sun will be directly overhead, almost standing still (that is what solstice means in Latin—sun stands still). One thing we know for sure—if it's not covered with rain clouds, that sun will be burning hot, signaling time for me to begin my usual summer occupations—as if I hadn't already. Sit on the porch. Sip iced tea or, maybe, munch on watermelon chunks icy cold from the 'fridge. Stretch out under a tree with a library book and dream about far away places... and dinner.

Yes. Dinner. Because besides being the hottest time of year, it's the absolute best cooking time of the year if you love fresh fruits and vegetables.

I'm well fixed up in library books. There's a great selection over on Shotwell Street. I'm reading Allan Gurganus's The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. It's so fat it may get me through the summer on its own.

I recommend a trip to the library for a summer treat. I left plenty of good books for you to carry home; plus the library itself is a great cool place to spend an hour or two reading on a June afternoon.

I also recommend a trip to the vegetable stand or a farmer's market. That's where I've been picking up those juicy melons. When we were in Atlanta visiting Katy and Mannie I managed to hit two. A Saturday market in Virginia Highlands was great, but then we found real fun and fascination at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market on Edgewood Street where they've been selling fruits, vegetables, meats and more since 1923. What a treat! Not only mounds, heaps, piles of wonderful produce, and some intriguing (yes, intriguing) meats, but also people from everywhere. Doesn't matter where folks hail from—they love good food, and they find it here. At one meat counter I saw people with three ethnic backgrounds behind the counter; in front with me were four or five.

Back home in Bainbridge there's plenty of opportunity to get the fresh stuff—stands in front of a house on a country road or street-side in town are good for starters I've had good melons right off of a truck pulled up in a parking lot. I was talking watermelon with Faye Ingram at an exercise class. She told me to make the trip out U.S. 84 to check out the John and Carolyn Bridges' Brinson Produce.

Thank you, Faye!

I've been meaning to go. When Stirring up memories first started, someone told me that Carolyn Bridges is the best cook in the county. I've been meaning—how many years now—to get out and talk to Carolyn. You can be sure I'm going back to talk cooking with her soon!

It's a challenging place. How am I ever going to cook all this food? How are two people going to eat it? The Bridges (with the help of grandkids, they hastened to tell me) grow their own and are there to sack it up for you and carry it to the car if you buy more than you can handle yourself. I almost did. We had blackberries picked that morning and some extra fresh corn that found itself in a pan before the car had cooled down.

Rosemary and corn

6 ears fresh corn
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
one small onion (or half a large one) diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced rosemary (or 1 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the kernels off the corn and set them aside. Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan. Sauté the onion, garlic and rosemary in the butter and oil for about 5 minutes or until the onions are soft. Add the corn and cook for 5 minutes, now and then. Add the cream and simmer for 5 minutes stirring a little more often. Season with salt and pepper.

(Okay, we're watching what we eat, so I substituted low fat milk for the cream and cut back on the butter. The rosemary was fresh from my own garden. It's mighty good. Hurts to think about how good it'll be with cream.)

The fresh, juicy tomatoes provided a gorgeous salad. I peeled, diced and drained them, let them marinate in vinaigrette for a couple of hours, then tossed with low-fat yoghurt, more fresh rosemary and some slivered mint. Ahhhh.

But the best tomato dish, the tomato recipe that it wouldn't be summer if I didn't run in the paper is Barbara Tennille.s classic. A great dish to serve on the long evening of the first day of summer.

Barbara Tennille's Georgia tomato pie

9" pie shell
2 or 3 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
salt and pepper
sweet basil, coarsely chopped
2 or 3 green onions, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Fill the pie shell with tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, pepper, green onions and basil.

Combine the mayonnaise and cheese and spread over tomatoes. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. This should serve six. Likely, it will serve four.

Stir up some of those fresh blackberries with sweetened yogurt or cream and head out into the longest evening of the year and watch the stars pop out into the darkening sky.

Happy summer.

Asking for help

I mentioned the intriguing meats at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. I'm still intrigued. When folks say they cook "everything but the oink" they mean it—and the "moo," too.

Not long ago I read an article on cooking pig's feet and beef cheeks. I'd been giving them some thought. Now here they were. Beef feet—big beef feet as well. But what to do with them? I've got an idea about the pig feet (watch out if your invited to eat at my house in the next few weeks!) but I'm at a loss when it comes to beef cheeks and beef feet. I'm wide open to suggestions on all three. Please help me out if you cook, or have cooked, any of these.

Here's another question posed by Johnnye Bryant. She's enjoying this summer's good crop of sweet corn, only it makes her hanker for what she remembers as "field corn." The kind folks used to bring in from the field after a hard day's work. My Texas daddy loved it too; he called it "horse corn." Anyone know where Johnnye an and I can lay our hands on some? And, why not send along your favorite summer fresh vegetable or fruit recipe? There are many hot days coming between now and the first day of autumn.

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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network