Summer is my favorite time. I like lounging in the sun, letting the sweat bead up on me, and a cold glass of something sweet. I love the slow lazy days of summer.
I bet that is surprising because so many things about me say fall bitch, but no, I wait all year for days that make most people want to hide in a freezer. The only thing I am missing in my life right now is a pool or nearby body of water where I could dip my toes. Alas, I’m in a landlocked state with a life partner who doesn’t even own a pair of shorts, never mind being caught dead in a public body of water. That will not stop me from enjoying the best part of summer, the flavors. This is a list of what I would consider essential summer flavors in the United States. This is MY OPINION; it’s not necessarily the correct opinion, ya dig?
Although I struggle to say “Arnold Palmer” in real life without putting a Boston accent on it (you can take the girl out of Boston, but…), this is one of my favorite drinks. Mixing two of the most summery drinks makes an even better drink. I love a sweet, sweet lemonade mixed with an unsweetened iced tea to create a nice balance between the two. I’m a fan of demisweet tea (if that’s not already a thing, I’m trademarking it), and this hits the mark. Something in me wants to try an Arnold Palmer made with Earl Grey tea and lavender lemonade. I might try that this weekend.
Peaches. Plums. Apricots. Cherries. Stone fruit is a summer delicacy, especially in Colorado. I know Georgia is known for its peaches, but so is Palisade, Colorado. The availability and affordability of stone fruit here have made it a huge staple in my summer kitchen. I love cutting up a peach or pitting up some cherries to throw on a sandwich with some cheese and ham for an easy summer supper. It’s the perfect dinner on the nights that it is too hot to even think about starting the grill.
And while I love mixing sweet and savory flavors, of course, it’s no secret that stone fruits shine in sweet desserts like pies, tarts, or carmelized and covered in syrup to serve over ice cream—chef’s kiss.
Something about fresh blooms on a rose bush makes me think, “I want to drink that.” And while I’ve yet to harvest my rose petals from my backyard, I have picked up some culinary-grade dried flowers to make various floral-flavored simple syrups to sweeten my lemonade and cocktails.
Using flowers in the kitchen is a new endeavor for me, but I have found it’s an easy way to upgrade a drink at home. And flavored syrup is straightforward to make. A little heat, sugar, water, and flower or herb of your choice are all you need to take that regular old lemonade to something a little more unique and a touch fancier.
As tiring as I find it, slowly smoking meats in my charcoal grill has become one of the most satisfying activities. It’s a marathon, starting hours, maybe even a day before you’ll eat like Thanksgiving. It requires prep and planning. But it also involves a sort of knowledge of fire and coals and heat. Granted, you don’t have to do all that to taste one of my favorite summer flavors; you just have to be loved by someone who doesn’t mind running a marathon. Or buy it from a local BBQ joint and keep it warm in your oven; nobody has to know.
There’s something extraordinary about sharing a communal, homemade with love from scratch bbq meal with your family and friends on a hot summer evening. But, of course, don’t forget the wet naps.
I am not ashamed to admit that my husband and I, elder, aging millennials who have no children, do have our marshmallow roasting sticks to make s’mores after every grilled-out meal. While he opts for boring plain old Hershey’s chocolate (or some other similar pedestrian variety, I SAID IT), I love to up the elegance by using orange-flavored dark chocolate, which compliments the jet puff giants quite nicely.
And I bet if you have any feelings or experiences with s’mores, whether you love them or hate them, you probably associate them with summer too.
Fried seafood that you eat outside
As I already mentioned, I grew up in New England, so fried seafood was a summer tradition. Each year we waited with excitement for the local clam haven to open up for the season so we could eat hot fried foods at a disgusting wooden table while getting bit by mosquitos.
I loved it.
And since my mom’s favorite thing on earth to eat is fried clams and onion rings, this was a regular summer tradition. Even though there were sit-down restaurants we could eat at year-round, there is something special about eating the same food from paper baskets outside as the sun dips behind the trees.
Now, I’d probably get some fried scallops and fries. Early in my childhood, I probably got a hot dog. Speaking of…
Not just any hot dogs. They have to be Hebrew National, and they have to be a little bit charred. Not burnt. They are served on a soft top split, New England style bun, with a thin line of ice cold, straight-from-the-fridge tomato ketchup.
I’ll also permit some mustard, brown preferably, but there’s something I love about the simplicity of just a little bit of ketchup. Of course, it helps that those particular franks are the best-tasting dogs out there. If you haven’t tried them, please, give that brand a shot.
Handheld cold treats
I’m not going to pretend I’m not a year-round ice cream eater. My grandfather and I used to have a bowl of chocolate ice cream with chocolate syrup (and I’d also have rainbow sprinkles) nearly every night after dinner until I moved out in 2004. It didn’t matter if it was 95 degrees out or 15.
However, what was a summer treat pretty exclusively was ice cream served in ice cream cones. You might think it was to save their carpets. That might be true for you or your kid, but every adult who saw me finish a too big scoop of chocolate teetering on an impossibly small sugar cone would remark, “wow, there’s not a drip on your face or your hands.”
As an adult, the moment it starts warming in the spring, I start talking about getting ice cream for dinner.
Summer is just the time you eat cold things you can hold in your hand, including freeze pops/otter pops/whatever the f*ck you call them and popsicles.
And that’s summer flavor… to me
I hope you enjoyed this list of my essential summer flavors, tastes, and foods. I hope you didn’t mind my tangents into the past and present. I’d love to know your favorite flavors or, better yet, what flavors you haven’t had a chance to try. Tweet it at me now and use the hashtag: #potlunchsummer