I’ve never been sure whether to consider August mid-summer, late summer, or even early fall, though stores sounding the dreaded “Back to School” alarm seem to believe the latter. And I have friends and relatives who teach, and thus find themselves a bit disgruntled at the way their summer vacations have been curtailed in recent years, as an increasing number of them get summoned back to work before Labor Day. And long before they or their restless pupils are ready to return!
Whatever August is called, though, I always feel that summer as a season is very much present. The beaches are crowded with surfers and sunbathers, and public swimming pools are still open, the chlorinated waters shining like aquamarines under the sun–a somewhat milder sun than we saw last year, and believe me, I am not complaining about that! People are still planning and embarking upon vacations, the ice cream truck can be heard trundling along the neighborhood streets, and the smoky smell of barbecues fills the evening air.
One of summer’s simple but enduring pleasures for me is exploring the numerous open-air farmer’s markets held throughout the city. Some are quite small, just a handful of stalls devoted to fresh produce, flowers, and the occasional baked treat. Others are much more extensive, offering not only beautiful flowers and gorgeous-looking fruits and vegetables, but ice-blended drinks, savory soups and stews, fluffy omelets and fancy crepes, grilled and barbecued meats–just about anything you can imagine wanting to eat on a bright summer day!
And that’s just the food. The larger farmer’s markets can also sell clothes–wide-brimmed straw hats, gauzy cotton blouses, and full, flowery skirts–and sometimes paintings and sketches by local artists, and offer live entertainment. Last weekend, I walked past a stall where a man was playing Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” . . . on a set of panpipes!
That same market also featured a petting zoo, complete with chickens, geese, rabbits, goats, one stubborn-looking little donkey, and a couple of ponies, who were there to give rides to the kids. When I walk through the farmers’ markets, I keep my eyes and ears open, enjoying all the sights and sounds. And tastes! Ripe red strawberries, golden slices of peaches or nectarines, tiny exquisite champagne grapes, segments of bright orange satsumas or purplish-red blood orange are generously provided for sampling. (Vendors are usually eager to provide you with tastes of their goods, in hopes that you’ll come back for more–and spend money this time!).
I admire the agua frescas, bright as jewels in their huge glass jars. I inhale the aromas of roasted corn and grilled sausages. And I observe with wonder the lunchtime crowds all lining up for Hawaiian barbecued chicken or lobster rolls.But finally, I get down to business and purchase what I came for, whether it’s fresh herbs, succulent corn on the cob, strawberries, or stone fruit. Right now it’s the latter, and a few days hence, when the fruit is sufficiently ripe, there will be this.A pie made with the best ingredients to be found that will, one hopes, live up to its potential! (This one did, by the way–all but one slice is now gone. But more will follow.)
To the joys of summer! May they yet reign–at least until Labor Day!