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Monday, July 30, 2012

Tastes of Summer



Yesterday, I had my first real taste of summer. A cucumber. Not just any cucumber. We can get cucumbers year round at the grocery store. This was the first-of-the-summer, just-picked cucumber from our garden. Its crisp taste immediately brings up memories of summers as a child. That first bite always says "summer" is here.

Hang on, you say. Summer has been here in Michigan since May. Actually, we had a "taste" of summer in March with unusual eighty degree temperatures. This year has been exceptionally hot, for long periods of time. Not just here but all over the country. With all that heat and little rain, I wondered how it would affect our garden.

I say "our" garden as if I had anything to do with it. It's my husband's garden. He buys the tender, young plants as soon as they're available then impatiently waits until danger of frost is past (sometimes, sooner) before he puts them in his carefully-prepared strip of ground. That's right, a strip of ground. Three years ago, he rid an area between the lawn and the neighbor's privacy fence of decorative stone for his garden. With the drought, he's out there watering that two by thirty foot strip every morning and praying for rain—just like farmers all over the country. Ironic that City Boy wanted to plant a garden when Country Girl here grew up on acreage with a huge garden. Been there, done that, don't need to do it again. Retirement does strange things to men.

The tomatoes are getting bigger and soon another taste of home-grown, fresh-picked summer will be here. As kids, we would eat tomatoes right off the vine like an apple. No need to wash off pesticides or whatever they put on tomatoes for transport to stores. We didn't use pesticides so our tomatoes came au naturel. Just brush it off and sink our teeth into the ripe flesh of warm, juicy sweet-tart tomato. Can't wait until ours are ripe. I say that now but by next month the tomatoes will be lined up along the kitchen window ledge and he'll bring in a dozen more—from three plants! Two people can only eat so many tomatoes. Since I don't can (been there...) our neighbors, relatives, strangers even will enjoy our bounty. Tomatoes are like zucchini, always more than you can eat.

Sweet watermelon and corn-on-the-cob slathered with butter are treats we only indulge in during the summer. Hubs hasn't tried growing them, thank goodness. We live in the city. But, corn picked that morning by a local farmer is so sweet, tender and juicy. Another taste that reminds me of summers past.

How-to articles tell writers to ground the reader by using the five senses—hearing, touch, sight, smell and taste. Hearing, touch and sight are fairly easy. Taste is more difficult to describe. Smell plays a large part in what we perceive as taste—proper name, gustation. I learned something new, thanks to Wikipedia. I always thought there were only four basic types: sweet, bitter, sour and salty. Apparently, there's a fifth called "umami" that means meaty or savory. I can definitely see that when I think of tasting a tomato. By bringing taste into our stories, we bring the reader in, make the reader experience what the character is experiencing. In Switched, when Veronese (from an alien world) first tastes Diet Vernors Ginger Ale, the bold, sweet-tart beverage bubbles on her tongue and tickles her nose. In Switched, Too, when Scott (from Earth) tastes alien starship veggies for the first time, the flavors explode in his mouth and are so intense he feels as if his esophagus is glowing radioactive. Unfortunately, those stories do not take place in July or August when they could experience the true tastes of summer. Maybe in the next book. Ah ha, that gives me an idea.

What are your favorite tastes that you associate with different seasons?

Starting this Thursday, August 2nd, I'll be bringing in authors for you to meet. I hope you'll stop by this week to meet and greet Michigan author Nancy Gideon.

16 comments:

  1. Loved your post Diane! I remember eating fresh green beans right off the plant (of course they weren't from our garden as a kid but the neighbors...lol) and also crab apples from the nearby tree...my lips still pucker up and my mouth waters just thinking about them. Ahh...and fresh rhubarb (my dad loved making rhubarb pie, I just liked the fresh rhubarb stalks). Corn on the cob cooked on the grill..yum...all of these things make me think of summer and I think that's why I enjoy visiting the farmer's markets so much. I don't garden myself as I struggle enough just tending a few house plants and flowers on my porch! lol

    Congrats on your book...sounds like a keeper!

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  2. Farmers' markets are great for all the fresh produce we don't/can't grow. Rhubarb pie. Yum. So tart it gets you in the back of your jaw. Thanks for stopping by, Christine.

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  3. I don't do much of the grocery shopping, but when I do, I stop at the farmer's market first, and then get everything else. By that time there's no room in the fridge for anything else! Good luck with the new release!

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  4. Our tomatoes are a bit pathetic this year - but the taste is still second to none, although around here, I'm the gardener rather than my husband.

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    1. I expect our tomatoes to have very tough skins, thanks to the heat. Another 2-3 days & we'll find out. Thanks for stopping by, Maddy.

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  5. What a timely post, Diane! I love gardening and especially love the smell that tomatoe plants leave on my sking when I'm picking them. And the smell of dirt really makes me feel like a kid again in my uncle's garden.
    Enjoy your harvest!

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    1. You are too weird, Teresa. LOL I hate that tomato plant smell. But I know what you mean about how smells bring back memories. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. Coming home from a walk in one of Ann Arbor's park along the Huron river, my husband asked why babies put everything in their mouths. I told him the sense of taste must be our first learning tool, good or bad milk, etc. Then sure enough sunday's magazine section detailed all five senses. Taste is our survival tool, but sight is faster. Well sure, how many people can you taste to prove they're not a danger to you. Just kidding. Smell is the strongest memory keeper and in our modern society frowned upon. I do know when a mate smells bad, he's no longer to be trusted.

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    1. Very interesting, Rohn. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Your post made my mouth water! I miss getting garden fresh vegetables like we used to when my grandparents were alive. I didn't appreciate it back then. I was a dumb kid. :-) I'm a city girl. My parents raised me in the city...so no garden for me. Plus, I have a black thumb when it comes to growing things.

    My favorite tastes that I associate with seasons would have to be pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. Fall and winter are my favorite times of the year, and the taste and smell of pumpkin puts me in a festive fall mood. :-)

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  8. I agree about pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving isn't the same without it. Thanks, Alicia, for stopping by.

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  9. I, too, love the 'tastes' of summer. Like you, Diane, been there, done that with both the gardening and the canning. With so many alternatives, farmers' markets, fresh vegetable stands, why grow your own, but there is nothing like food fresh from your own garden. (Does your husband loan out?) Just kidding.

    Also, sorry to be late. But I got here.

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  10. You're always welcome, Margo. Glad you stopped by.

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  11. Tomato sandwiches on white bread with mayo; rock hard pears from our pear trees; fresh green beans cooked with bacon and potatos. Those were favorite summer treats I remember. Oh and stuffed zuchinni! I think I'm making that for dinner tonight. Thanks for a fun post, Diane, but now I'm really hungry for a really ripe tomato. :)

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  12. You're making me hungry. Since we have a couple of ripe tomatoes, I think it's BLTs for lunch.

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