Sunday, June 30, 2013

10 Things That Say Summer to Me

This week's Monday Listicle is about summer. We all have certain things that speak to us of summer. Mostly they stem from our childhood, and your list would be different from mine. These are the top 10 things that make summer real for me.

1. Corn on the cob. All my life, corn on the cob has been a summer time food. Corn on the cob tastes so much better than off the cob. And the butter! Lots of butter dripping off the corn and pooling on the plate. Hot and crisp and delicious!
Corn on the cob
 2. Watermelon!  I love a cold, juicy, sweet watermelon. Nowadays you can buy it all year round, but when I was growing up, watermelon was strictly a summer food. The grownups would slice it and hand out big pieces for everyone. Another drippy delight, but with the added benefit of stickiness. What's not to love?

3. Bare feet. When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, we never wore shoes outside during the summer. Or the spring. Or most of the fall. Or some parts of the winter. But I digress. Little feet could carry a lot of dirt, especially since digging to China was a very popular pastime. We moved to Central California with its 110 degree heat and discovered that a black asphalt street could burn your tootsies pretty severely. Which meant, of course, that you had to run across the street instead of walking. Other than that, nothing changed. Now add those dirty bare feet to the sticky, drippy goodness of watermelon, and you've got summer!

Bare feet
4. Popsicles. And by Popsicles, I mean real Popsicle brand frozen treats with two sticks that you broke apart to get two pops. Two! Two frozen, drippy, sticky sugar bombs! And, yes, we're back to food.

5. Barbecued Steak. Yep. More food. When I was growing up, my parents' one luxury was barbecued steak on Saturday. I have the fondest memories of playing in the back yard on the freshly  mowed lawn while Daddy grilled the steak. He picked the steaks personally from the local meat market and slathered them with his own secret sauce. I know the recipe, but if I told you, I'd have to kill you. Now throw in some homemade french fries, corn on the cob, and watermelon for dessert, and you've got yourself the perfect meal. The. Perfect. Meal.

Steak on the grill
6. The Beach Boys. Ah, Endless Summer. Daddy hung stereo speakers outside on the patio and listened to music as he barbecued. We came to call it Saturday Music. Elvis, Buddy Holly, Glen Campbell, Roy Orbison, The Four Seasons, and The Tijuana Brass. But The Beach Boys made it summer.

7. Drive-In Movies. There are very few of these in existence today, but when I was a teenager, we actually had choices: McHenry Drive-In, Ceres Drive-In, Stockton 99, Briggsmore. Briggsmore was the first to go. It's sad really. Drive-in theaters were awesome!  You and your friends would pull into the dusty lot just before dark and sit on the hood of your car to check out the boy situation. As the sun went down, the temperature dropped to something bearable, and you hit the concession stand as the previews were starting. You worked your way back to your car, strategically routing your way past the car of that cute boy in your science class. Finally, just as the movie started, a summer breeze came up, sometimes carrying a distant herbal smoke from the other side of the lot. I feel sorry for you if you never experienced the drive-in. It really was awesome.

Drive-in theater

8. The Ice Cream Man! The purveyor of fine frozen goods for one mere dime. Yes, I'm that old. We might be outside playing when we heard it. That lovely little jingle that meant only one thing. Ice Cream! What happened next took great speed. We rushed inside to our parents and danced around as they came up with a dime for each of us. Sometimes begging was involved. I'm not ashamed to admit it. It was ice cream! Next, dime firmly clutched in dirty little fist, we ran outside hoping he hadn't already passed us by. There he was! We rushed to the curb and waved, and he stopped. He always stopped! The exchange was made, and we were in frozen sticky heaven!

Vintage Ice Cream Truck

9.  Sleeping in. I was born at 10:35 P.M. Maybe that's why I've always been a night person. When I was a teenager, I would sometimes stay up all night reading. Just not bother going to sleep that night. Being a teacher means I have to overcome my natural tendencies and practice that early-to-bed-early-to-rise thing. But when school's out, it takes no time at all for my natural disposition to take over. That first night of staying up past midnight lets me know it's really summer time.

10. The smell of peaches. We live in the San Joaquin Valley, which produces the majority of California's agricultural products. California, by the way, produces almost 13% of the nation's agricultural products. So we've got fruit. We've got fresh fruit stands on every other corner once you get out of town, and out of town is never far around here. When I was in high school, I walked along the main highway through Manteca (self-proclaimed Crossroads of California.) Highway 120 was a prime truck route for transporting fresh fruit and veggies to the canneries and packing plants. There is nothing to compare to the smell of a full truckload of fresh peaches, warm in the valley sun. It is divine. Simply divine. The peaches are ripe in June. Peaches mean summer.

Peach half

How about you? What means summer to you?