Bob McKinney

It has been recorded here in past installments that summer is not my favorite of the seasons. That is mainly because I detest hot weather.

I grew up in south Arkansas and went to college in north Louisiana. After college I moved to central Arkansas and in the late nineties I moved here.

Middle Tennessee is probably the least offensive of the places I have lived when it comes to heat and humidity, but we hold our own. Although we are enjoying some milder temperatures now, we had a taste of oppressive heat about a week ago, and as the summer solstice approaches, we are sure to experience more.

One would think I might have grown accustomed to the heat, having always lived in the South. Maybe I’m accustomed to it, but I have never accepted it and I’ll still complain mightily about it.

Happily, there have always been two significant consolations to get me through this most trying of seasons.

The first would be baseball. Because of the pandemic, the start of the season was postponed, and two trips I had planned in conjunction therewith — one to spring training, and one to opening week in Phoenix — were canceled.

The owners and players of Major League Baseball are allegedly still trying to come to terms on a condensed season, but with each passing day, it looks less likely.

And without going into a rant about all that and how it would seem a partial season with partial pay to the players would be better than no season at all, I’ll just say there is no baseball and, for now at least, that solace for the upcoming steamy weather is nonexistent.

Accordingly, I must turn to the other consolation for summer heat, which would be summer food.

The fresh offerings of fruits and vegetables bring joy to my soul.

It’s early yet, but I had the usual preview in May with this year’s strawberries. If there is another fruit that provides the elation of a luscious, bright red strawberry fresh from the ground, I have yet to find it.

Whether I bite into one in its rawest form, or enjoy them in strawberry shortcake (send an email and I’ll send you the recipe for the only true form of this) or atop vanilla ice cream, I adore them.

A distant — though solid — second would be peaches. Following a recent brief hospital stay for my wife, a friend brought a peach cobbler and I almost had to violate the social distancing rules and give her a hug.

Is there anything better than juicy sliced peaches, sugared a bit, with a hot crust covering them, with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream?

Well, maybe homemade peach ice cream, but it would be hard to choose between the two.

The melons of summer — watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew — are at their best this time of year, and I love them for breakfast, unless I’m having fresh blueberries or blackberries on top of cereal. The fresh fruits and berries of summer never disappoint.

I’ll not enter the debate as to whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable, but I know it is near the top of the list of my favorite fresh summer foods. As I said earlier, I grew up in Arkansas, where the famous “Bradley Pink” originated.

There is no finer tomato on this earth, in my opinion. According to a website I found, Urban Farmer, Bradleys were developed by the University of Arkansas in 1961 and “are well balanced with just enough acidity to give you that old-fashioned big tomato flavor that you love so much.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, and peeled and sliced on a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich) on toasted bread with a dash of salt and a tablespoon of mayo, it’s pure heaven.

For me, the rest of the summer vegetable lineup (because in my heart, I believe tomatoes are vegetables) includes green beans (served with new potatoes), lima beans, purple hull and lady peas, okra and eggplant. Sorry, but I just can’t do squash.

If it’s prepared just right, I’ll have the veggies with a side of cornbread, but I’ll pass if it’s too dry or gritty. And except for the bacon on the BLT, no meat is necessary.

The heat is coming. And there’s no baseball.

But I’ll be eating like a king.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].

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