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OTHER ITA SITES:
Dog Days And Sultry Nights
Immersed in the "dog days" of summer--which Webster's dictionary defines as: 1. the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere and 2. a period of stagnation or inactivity--I feel it's effects profoundly. The ancient Romans called this time the "dog days" after the constellation, Sirius, the dog star which shines high in the northern hemisphere at this time of year. Certainly, in August, Rome is especially hot and muggy and Italians flee en mass to experience the sultry breezes of area beaches. leaving only the tourists to walk the heat drenched streets. In this sense, I couldn't help but notice that maybe we, too, are becoming more Italian.
My usually thriving New England community, now eerily quiet under the dog sky, has dispersed to the beaches as well, leaving the rest of us behind to our inactivity and stagnation. Yet the inactivity of my body, when it's just too hot to do much of anything, has effortlessly led to a flow of activity in my mind, which transferred itself to my hands.
I sat for hours outside in the shade of my roofed patio of river rocks, around a bistro table, with a fan blowing overhead, watching my vegetable and herb garden expand before my eyes wondering at the magic of what was started from seed, now bearing the fruit of numerous meals shared with friends. For one, a young woman and recent transplant from Russia, the aroma of the tomato plants brought her back to her grandmother's garden in a remote coastal village of what was once the Soviet Union. For a moment, time and space did not exist as we tossed a salad of tomatoes, slivered red onions and basil drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.
With another foreign transplant--a fellow Italian-- we dined on fresh baby salad greens, tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette and the blossoms from my massive zucchini plant dunked in a tempura batter, fried crispy on the out side, coating a delicate sweetness within---this, a seasonal delicacy from our youth, I also shared with a young California native who ate these blossoms for the first time. And then with another friend who after more than 30 years still remembers, as a young girl in Greece, picking these beautiful salmon colored flowers in the morning when their petals were wide open so they could be stuffed before frying. It seems at times that food and sky know no time or geography.
For my children who love a dish of pasta with tomato pesto, I made a slightly different version of this classic sauce---a pesto of tarragon, basil and parsley. I tossed the linguine only with the tomato sauce, then added a tablespoon of cream to the pesto and added a large dollop of it on top of each individual plate of pasta. This way with each twirl of the linguine, you dragged a bit of the pesto with it, getting the full taste of its intense flavor---unbelievably good.
Each time I prepared even the simplest meal from my garden, it was a reminder of how truly delicious fresh ingredients are. You've never tasted a tomato until you've bitten into one just plucked from the vine, eaten like the fruit it is. Herbs are a completely new experience when they're picked and torn over your food. And peas are truly sweet, eaten right from their pod. You haven't truly experienced summer until you've dined on its fruits under the dog stars, listening to the rustle of the wind in the trees, felt the humid, sultry air on your skin, and talked far into the night with a close friend who simply "gets you".
Maybe the dog days of summer are meant to be inactive for us because the earth is so busy creating, she wants us to do nothing more than pay it the attention it deserves. Maybe in order to learn the secrets of its ways we need to first be witnesses to its boundless, graceful activity.
So gather with a friend or two and in your inactivity and stagnation, contemplate the universe while you munch on some tasty morsels from our great Earth.
Have a great month,
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Travel Part B