We’ve had one of the hottest summers I can remember. Hardly any rain. Temperatures most days in the mid 30s (mid 90s Farenheit). And with the humidity it felt more like the mid forties. Day after day after day. I am not a fan of cold weather, but even I found the heat almost unbearable.
I was thirsty, more than hungry. And when I did want food, all I really wanted was fruit. Berries, of every description alone, or with yoghurt, cereal or tossed in a salad. Peaches, nectarines and plums that were ripe, juicy and not too sweet. Grapefruit and orange segments, mixed with lime juice and a drop of honey. Honey dew, cantaloup and watermelon, enjoyed by themselves or added to other ingredients to become lovely, light and refreshing meals. Cubes of watermelon, feta, kalamata olives, lime juice and fresh mint, for example. I was eating it by the bowlful.
And then there were the frozen pink lemonade bars I found at Whole foods, that quickly became an addiction. Very low in calories, they’re tart, cold and the perfect antidote to blazing hot temperatures. I couldn’t get enough of them. And, of course, lots and lots to drink, to stay hydrated. Ice cold water, with slices of fruit. Lemonade with sprigs of fresh mint. Iced tea and coffee. And the ultimate treat, a skinny iced mocha coconut frappuccino! Yes, even the skinny version is absolutely debauched.
But recently I’ve started to have cravings of a different sort.
And that’s why I know that the seasons are changing. Fall’s at our doorstep. I don’t need the calendar to tell me. It’s not because it’s getting dark, earlier. It’s not because even if it’s still warm during the day, early mornings and evenings are much cooler. Cool enough that I’ve shut off the air conditioning and, even with just the window open, I often wake up with my light summer blanket pulled tight around me. It’s not because I had to come back home for a sweater the other day, because I was too cool in just my tee-shirt.
My stomach is telling me.
I want soup. Last Sunday I couldn’t stop thinking about my mother’s chicken soup. But then I got caught up in the New York Times, and by the time I decided to head over to the grocery store for the ingredients it was 4:00 p.m. Too late to start with that. But I’m still thinking about it. I’m also thinking about hearty vegetable soups, so thick they’re almost like stew. Topped with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and served with warm, crusty bread. Creamy mushroom barley soup. Silky smooth carrot soup, with enough grated, fresh ginger to really warm your insides.
Soups that are meals in and of themselves, like my killer bouillabaisse. Filled to the brim with fresh monk fish, grouper, shrimps, clams, mussels and lobster. I even make my own stock. The prep takes some time, but it is so worth it. A former colleague’s mother-in-law is from Marseilles, the birthplace of bouillabaisse and she once told me that mine is the best she’s ever had. If I do say so myself, it is really, really good. Mmmmm …
Then’s there’s the soup that a Bajan friend of mine used to make. I called it his ‘cleaning-out-the-fridge’ soup. Whatever vegetable was in there, and starting to look a bit tired, got thrown in that pot. Carrots, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, West Indian sweet potatoes, green beans, asparagus, peas, you name it. Then he’d dump in a mess of chicken wings, water and all the seasoning he had handy: Garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, thyme, curry powder, salt and pepper. He’d cook it on a low heat for a long, long time. You cannot imagine how fabulous it was. Whenever his brother was in town visiting, he’d get him to make dumplings to throw in there, as well; and that just took it right over the top!
Yep, Fall’s coming. Is it lunch time yet?