Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Southern Day in Southern California

Mortgage Lifters and other heirlooms ripen in the humid summer sun, 2012.
Today is one of those days that feels like home to me.  I'm from Virginia and in Virginia, summer means humidity.  It's pretty rare that we get a hot, humid day here in Southern California.  But this morning when the girls and I left the house, the three of us cut through the still, wet air and looked up to the sky-- each noticing the dramatic change in weather since we last stepped foot outside.  I smiled and told them that this was what summer in Virginia feels like.  We all took a moment to breathe in the liquid air and smell summer.

During my twenty years in Southern California, I've gotten used to our mediterranean climate.  I no longer flinch (much) when I feel my flesh burning within ten seconds of hitting the hot summer sun.  I wear sunglasses year-round and keep myself pretty covered up most of the time.  I'm not complaining.  Living in Southern California certainly has its advantages, like buying fresh fruits and vegetables year round and picking lemons off a backyard tree.  But somehow today, as I watered our garden and picked beans, basil, and tomatoes for dinner, I felt happy to be here.  And happy that I was able to give my girls a glimpse of-- no, a full-body immersion-- into a humid Southern summer.  (In a strange turn of events, Virginians have recently experienced the scorching hot temperatures that are our summer norm.)

One thing both places have in common is a good climate for growing tomatoes.  This morning picked all of our ripe tomatoes (mostly Mortgage Lifters) for a fresh tomato-corn soup we'll be having for dinner.  This soup says summer-- and home-- to me more than almost any food I can imagine.  But it is not my home in Virginia that I think of when I make this soup, it's the home I've created with my husband, daughters, and stepson here in California.

I made a version of this soup as part of the first meal I ever cooked for the man who would eventually become my husband.   There's no pressure like cooking for a date for the first time, but I planned that meal as I do many meals-- by wandering around the farmer's market.  It was early summer and I was excited to discover the first ripe tomatoes of the season.  I made this soup as an expression of my love of fresh food and new beginnings.  Unfortunately, I didn't know that my "date" hated soup.  It amuses me now to think of him lifting his spoon for the first bite of his most detested food-- except for ice cream, which I served for dessert.  But that's another story.  My husband swears I've converted him to a love of soup, at least this soup.  We eat it several times each summer and remember our first home-cooked meal together.  This soup now tastes like home to me.

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