This rainy, rainy summer has disrupted many a ballgame, drive-in movie and get-together. We’ve borne it with grace – OK, with grumbling – but now it’s really getting on our nerves.
I never thought I’d see an August arrive with so few cantaloupes available. Three sad specimens were all that were left the other day when I finally got to the farmers market. The farmers promise me a late crop, but, hey, I’ve got to get my melon and proscuitto fix soon.
I won’t buy cantaloupe that’s not from the Carolinas. I don’t like the idea of them being picked while they are bright green and ripening in the musty hold of a truck as they wing their way across country. So I bought one of the iffy contenders at the market last Thursday. We’re still waiting for it to ripen. I caught my husband sniffing it this morning while he was waiting for the coffee to brew. “Nope,” was all he had to say.
Cantaloupe symbolizes summer for me more than any other fruit, other than peaches. Its funky smell, offset by its sweetness and smooth texture instantly cool me down on sweltering days. Whether chunked, or pureed into a soup, or just quartered and salted, it has always been a summer treat.
So, of course, I thought that was true for everyone. Hmmm. Not so much. A couple of years ago, we went on vacation in Maggie Valley with our long-time friends from Wisconsin. As a treat, we brought three almost ripe cantaloupes. I should have known that wasn’t the kind of treat they were looking for, when my friend, Terri, kept complaining about a “stink” in the kitchen. She thought another renter had left food behind and it was rotting. After a thorough search of the kitchen, I eyed the melons and said, “Ummm, you want to take a whiff of those?” She did, and went bug eyed. “I think they’ve gone bad,” she said. “Nah,” I said, “they’ve haven’t even gone good yet.”
The entire family complained about the smell for several days, while my husband and I dutifully ate one of the melons by ourselves. On the last day, faced with the prospect of taking fragrant melons home in the back of our car, we came up with another solution. We held a Summer Cantaloupe Toss. Since the house was on the top and the side of a mountain, flinging the melons off the deck provided an awe-inspiring moment of silence followed by an immensely satisfying squashy, thumping landing in the woods far below. Everyone left happy.
If you’d rather eat cantaloupe, you can’t go wrong teaming it mild cucumbers and juicy tomatoes, along with something salty.
1/2 canteloupe, sliced into chunks
2 large tomatoes, diced (you can also use four tomatillos)
1 cucumber, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil (or vegetable or canola oil)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
a couple of dashes of green hot sauce
6 strips crispy-fried bacon, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
Combine the diced fruit and vegetables in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice and hot sauce. Pour over diced ingredients and stir gently. Let sit for 30 minutes then place on serving plates and sprinkle with bacon, salt and pepper. Great served with Indian naan bread or tortillas.