On being ... summer distractions

By Ingrid Sapona

With my On being … deadline a few days away, I decided I should turn my mind to it. Sometimes, rather like the unpredictable summer lightning storms we’ve been having lately, a topic for the column strikes with no advance warning. But other times I have to comb through the past couple weeks’ doings to come up with a topic.

So, with nothing more pressing work-wise, I decided to spend the afternoon considering what to write about and I thought the balcony might be a great place to seek inspiration. I put on my sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat and grabbed a magazine, figuring that a little light reading might be just the spark I needed.

Fortunately, it was a lovely summer afternoon that was perfect for sitting out … and (as I soon found out) for dozing off. My unplanned little nap ended when I realized the phone was ringing. Since it was within normal working hours and I was kind of playing hooky, I headed inside to answer it. It was a friend and we chatted for some time. When I hung up I went back out on the balcony to resume my task at hand: coming up with a column topic.

Before long, a column idea popped into my head -- actually, it kind of dripped down my neck and back: On being … wilted. Man, it was hot out there! I rationalized that the sweat was just my body re-adjusting to the heat, having been in the air conditioned living room while on the phone, and I tried to convince myself that I’d be fine. Well, a few minutes later, rather than risk dehydration, I headed back inside.

Not wanting to completely lose the lazy summer mood I was in, I decided to make myself a mojito. (After all, I reasoned, I’m growing mint on the balcony just for mojito-making.) I finished going through the magazine at about the same time I finished the drink, so I brought the empty glass back to the kitchen. That’s when the butter and eggs that I took out that morning to make a batch of cookies caught my eye.

Hah! Another column idea: On being … my summer cookie. I know, it sounds odd, but I can explain. Ever since I was a kid there’s been something that has come to memorialize a particular summer. During high school and college there was always a “song of the summer” -- some catchy tune that -- to this day -- instantly transports me back to a particular summer. (A prime example is Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown” -- oh to be 16 again…)

It’s been a long time since a song has represented a particular summer for me, but I have found other means of conjuring summer memories. A few years ago, for example, I started the tradition of picking a “wine of the summer”. Every aspect of this ritual is enjoyable. It starts by going to a few wine tastings (a cost-effective, not to mention fun, way of trying lots of different wines) in April and May. Then, once I’ve chosen the wine (usually an affordable white), I buy a case or two and that’s what I serve après sailing and at barbeques and get-togethers all summer. Though this may sound odd, I even derive pleasure from seeing the number of bottles on hand dwindle because I know every bottle gone was enjoyed with friends and family. So, for example, the Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc will forever remind me of the summer of 2004…

In a similar vein, the past few summers have been marked by my quest for the cookie of the summer -- one that elicits such satisfaction among those whom I serve it to that the next time we’re together I know they’re hoping I’ve brought a tin of them with me. The idea of a cookie of the summer all started when I came across a recipe for muesli bars. It initially appealed to me because I thought they’d be the perfect treat to serve on the boat: they wouldn’t melt (like ice cream) or go bad – and they were chock full of things that were “good for you” -- honey, oats, nuts, and seeds. (Well yes, butter and sugar too – but they are a cookie, after all!) The reaction I got the first time I served them made it very clear that I’d be making more of them before that sailing season was over.

Last summer’s cookie featured chocolate chips, toasted almonds, toasted pecans, and raisins -- all held together with the wee-est bit of dough. Delicious -- and a huge hit with everyone who tried them. Anxious to keep up the tradition of choosing a different cookie each summer, this spring I found a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe with a twist: oats and coconut. I made them, but it turns out I wasn’t crazy about the taste (the coconut and oats were weird, and there weren’t enough chips). But, a few batches (and a fair bit of tweaking) later I christened the summer of 2009 cookie: a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie that is, if I must say so myself, perfection.

Well, well, I seem to have gotten a bit distracted here. But then again, that’s what summer’s all about, isn’t it? Lazy afternoons enjoying this or that…

I hope your summer’s going well and that you’ve had some time to enjoy your favourite summer distractions -- whatever they may be. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cookies to make…

© 2009 Ingrid Sapona


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