Tomorrow is the first day of summer, so the calendar says, but it’s been summer in New Orleans for a couple of weeks already. Admittedly, we enjoyed a longer-than-usual period of cool Spring weather but Ms Summer has arrived in all her blazing glory abuzz with the drone of cicadas during the day and the croaky choir of frogs at night. These early summer days are still somewhat benign. We can walk the streets pretty much comfortably with a light breeze cooling our skin, passing under shade trees and store-front awnings. We can eat outdoors in the courtyards of our exceptional restaurants. We can walk to the snowball stand for nectar cream snowballs with condensed milk, slurping our way back home again. (Later, we’ll drive.) We can work in the garden in the middle of the day without worrying about needing a hat or a jug of water nearby. We still feel fresh, still feel the ghost of winter’s bitter cold that makes us luxuriate in early summer’s warm air. But the high summer days of humid, hot, weary bedragglement are just waiting around the corner.
For now, it’s still nice to sit out on the patio in the afternoons with a good book and a slice of something creamy and cool to eat like strawberry pie. Back in April I was up in Mississippi visiting my dad and sisters and my sister Vicki made a fresh strawberry pie that she promised tasted just like Shoney’s. That’s all I had to hear. When I was a kid, a trip to Shoney’s was a treat and the strawberry pie (or fudge cake) was to die for. Her pie didn’t disappoint and the first bite made my mouth pop and my eyes close in ecstasy! I’ve been craving it ever since so when I saw some juicy red strawberries at the grocery, I bought two pints and made the pie. Trust me, you won’t find an easier recipe or a more delicious one.
Fresh Strawberry Pie
1 cup sugar
3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons strawberry gelatin mix
1 cup water
1 pint strawberries, halved
1 pie crust
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and dry gelatin and stir well. Add water and cook on medium-high heat until thick and clear, stirring constantly. (Clear as in no longer a cloudy red, not no-color clear.) Set aside and let cool.
Arrange strawberries over the pie crust. After the filling cools, pour over the strawberries and chill.
Serve with whipped cream. Do not spray whipped cream directly into mouth before topping the pie.
Nevermind. Do it.
A few years back on a hot August morning I was feeling particularly prickly with the never-ending summer heat and wrote this little piece. It was subsequently published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. I expect I’ll be in the same old moody mess come this August.
But not yet.
(A Wild and Unrealistic Dream or Notion)
All I want on a Sunday morning is to luxuriate
in my laziness. I want to watch old movies
with the volume turned up loud,
the newspaper crackling as I shift
my supine body on the couch, the words
of duplicitous politicians and photos
of narcissistic socialites mashed under my ass.
I want to gaze out my window where heat rises
on the street like steam from a gumbo pot
while I lie, cool as a nectar cream snowball,
in my Maggie The Cat slip, painting my toenails
a color called Bad Influence.
I would sip Southern Wedding Cake coffee
from the chipped china cup I knocked off
the bedside table in a moment of passion
and savor a fresh chocolate croissant,
tender flakiness that melts on the tongue
like vampires melt in the sunlight.
As the sun climbs the sky, I’d meander into the afternoon
with the expectation of an early summer storm when
we would go upstairs and slip between our cool,
white sheets and not be heard from again
until Monday morning.