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Summer’s Birthday Cake

July 26, 2013

“(Watermelon) is the chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.”
Mark Twain, American author, in his novel Pudd’nHead Wilson

Watermelon and Kids: A Perfect MatchIn our family we have a birthday tradition: The Birthday Boy (or Girl) gets to choose what the family has for dinner. This is a great tradition, and I do admit there were times I took advantage of it to torture my sisters with meals I knew they hated. But that was rare. More often, in fact almost always, I would ask for my then favorite meal: Cheeseburgers, French fries, pop, and a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and M&Ms on top.

Which is why one year, when I was in the throes of my first love affair at age 8, my mother was shocked when I abandoned tradition and chose for my meal instead, the latest object of my affection.

“While I was at the grocery today, I bought the stuff for your birthday meal,” Mom said, eyes sparkling. “I know what my boy likes for his special day,” she said, placing a tender kiss on my forehead.

When she pulled out hamburger, French fries, and a box mix for a chocolate cake, my face fell.

“What’s the matter, Mikey? I got the chocolate frosting, too. And M&Ms.” She squatted down to my level waggling the bag in my face.

“I don’t want that,” I said, my voice barely audible.

“Well, honey, what do you want? You can have whatever you want. Pizza?”

I shook my head.

“Hot dogs? Macaroni and cheese?”

More vigorous head shaking. Mom clearly knew nothing about what turns a young man’s fancy in the hot summer months. What could she know about love anyway—being a mom?

Finally, I mumbled a reply, my eyes still downcast, embarrassed to even mention the object of my affection. “Watermelon.”

Mom’s face scrunched a little. “What? I’m not sure I heard you, honey.”

Was she deaf too? I quickly did the math. She would be 29 next month; pretty darn ancient.

Field of Watermelons at CHEFScatalog.comI raised my head, gathered all the strength of my new found, love-enhanced conviction, and said in a clear strong voice, “I want watermelon!”

Long lasting love affair

And I’ve pretty much wanted it since. Oh, sure, a new love interest eventually replaced watermelon (peanut butter was next), but you never forget your first love. I’m pretty sure I still close my eyes in ecstasy with each season’s first taste of watermelon.

What is it about watermelon that trips my trigger? I think it's a combination of things, actually. Of course, the sweet juicy taste—there’s nothing else like it. But I also have to credit the fact that you can eat as much of it as you want, and I want a lot! It’s a great way to hydrate during the hot summer months.

And speaking of summer, part of watermelon’s appeal is the pure, drippy, shirtless joy of holding a watermelon slice in your hands and digging into its luscious flesh, the juice dripping down your chin. Do I want a fork?! I have my hands and my mouth and that’s still the best way to eat watermelon.

Oh, did I mention watermelon seed spitting contests?

Recipes for your summer obsession

Recently I researched watermelon for CHEFS Catalog’s popular In Season feature and discovered the National Watermelon Promotion Board. All I can say is it’s a good thing I didn’t know about this group as an 8-year-old—chances are great I would have run away to join their circus.

While nothing beats the straight on eating of watermelon, the NWPB offered some fantastic recipes using watermelon. You’ll want to try these (and there are more on the In Season page):

Fire and Ice Salsa

Fire and Ice Salsa Recipe with Watermelon at CHEFScatalog.comIngredients

3 cups seeded and chopped watermelon

1/2 cup green peppers

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon green onions

2 tablespoons jalapeno peppers

Cooking instructions

Combine ingredients; mix well and cover. Refrigerate 1 hour or more. Makes 3 cups.

©National Watermelon Promotion Board. Used by permission.

Breakfast a Go-Go

Breakfast A Go-Go with Watermelon at CHEFScatalog.comIngredients

1/3 cup low fat granola

3/4 cup de-seeded watermelon chunks

5 ounces low fat banana yogurt

Cooking instructions

In a tall glass or to-go container, layer the ingredients in the following order: 1/2 of the granola, 1/2 of the watermelon chunks, 1/2 of the yogurt; repeat a second time to create two layers of each ingredient.

© National Watermelon Promotion Board, used by permission.

Creamy Watermelon Sherbet

Ingredients

5 cups watermelon puree (about 1 large watermelon)

1-1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmegCreamy Watermelon Sherbet Recipe at CHEFScatalog.com

1-1/2 cups milk

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Cooking instructions

Soften gelatin in 1/2 cup of the watermelon puree. Let stand 5 minutes at room temperature and then heat gently to dissolve gelatin. Cool slightly.

Add remaining watermelon puree, sugar, nutmeg, lemon juice, and milk to gelatin mixture.

Freeze in ice cream freezer according to appliance directions.

© National Watermelon Promotion Board, used by permission.

Sweet Sour Watermelon and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1 cup waterWatermelon and Cucumber Salad Recipe at CHEFScatalog.com

1/2 cup sugar to taste

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

dash salt and pepper to taste

bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped

3 cups seedless watermelon balls or small chunks

2 English cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and sliced into small slices

Cooking instructions

Mix together the vinegar, water, sugar (adjusting as desired), and poppy seeds in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chopped scallions.

Place the watermelon and cucumber in a serving bowl and pour the marinade over the top. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate a couple of hours before serving. Toss gently before serving.

© National Watermelon Promotion Board, used by permission.

Your turn: How far do you think you could spit a watermelon seed?

Grilling Essentials at CHEFScatalog.com

2 Comments

  • Clarice G James

    I'm joining some girlfriends for supper Sunday night; now I don't have to worry about what to bring. The Sweet Sour Watermelon and Cucumber Salad is perfect! Thanks for sharing, Mikey. :-)

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Tags: Watermelon

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