Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Desperately Seeking Summer

The headlines are all over the news here in Oregon: According to the National Weather Service, summer has possibly been cancelled for this year. On account of rain, I suppose. A meteorologist here in Portland put it well...

"If you look at a national temperature map, it's almost like we have become a separate continent," said Hill, "because literally everybody else in the lower United States is in a different season than we are. I mean, it really is just absolutely nuts!"

He's not wrong. My family back in the Mississippi Delta has been living in triple-digit heat for some time now; the corn in my father's garden is apparently over seven feet tall. Me, I just planted my corn a few days ago and have no idea if it's going to make it or not. The newspaper today lamented our local farmers' losses and the sad state of our legendary farmers' markets; our strawberry farmers have lost some 80 percent of their crop to weather problems and associated pests. According to the National Weather Service, we have had FOUR - count 'em, FOUR - sunny days since April 1. That's getting close to three months ago. And no one knows why this is happening, or when it will end, which is possibly the most disturbing part of it all.

Still, today we got a few hours of blessed sunshine before the clouds rolled in again, and those hours of sunshine found me with my friend and her toddler, out on Sauvie Island picking strawberries. The crop may be suffering from the weather, but these particular strawberries were abundant, juicy, and oh-so-fragrant! I picked half a flat of them and set it on the kitchen counter when I got home, and a few hours later when I started dinner, the whole kitchen smelled like strawberries. That's how you know you've got good stuff.

So they were worth a celebration. After all, strawberries aren't so easy to come by this year, so we have to treat them right while they're here! I could think of nothing so much as strawberry shortcake. So I came up with my own fancy version: sweet, buttery short biscuits with fresh-picked rosemary baked in, topped with those juicy fresh strawberries macerated in honey, balsamic vinegar, and a little more rosemary, and then capped nicely with a scoop of Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream.

By the time I sat down to enjoy my dessert, the clouds had taken over again, and the air was heavy with the promise of more rain tomorrow. But for a little while, I didn't care. I sat on the porch and relished my strawberry shortcake, and the glow of a few hours' sunshine, and for as long as it took me to eat dessert, it was summer after all.

You gotta seize it when you can, these days.

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