Thursday, July 13, 2006

Eating. watermelon.

In Seattle the seasons blur together like watercolor paints on wet paper, running together until one color is almost indistinguishable from the next. Spring becomes summer and summer turns to fall, and so forth, all so gently that I seem to wear the same clothes (cashmere sweaters and all). I have been so busy lately that the days slip by quickly, and I forget which month it is. It was with a shock that I realized July is half over; if it weren't for my birthday I would still think it was May. And then yesterday D. handed me a bowl heaped with chunks of watermelon, cool and sweet, and it hit me. It’s summer.

Nothing else says summer to me (except perhaps Rainier cherries) like watermelon. Every year I wait for the time those great mountains of green-striped melons appear in supermarkets. I look for the ones that have a yellow spot near the stem, thump on the rind to test for ripeness. There is no point in buying watermelon out of season; I have to resist the temptation to buy those pale, anemic melon halves wrapped in plastic, flown in from god knows where in the dead of winter. Wait patiently, until summer comes.

By all rights I should hate it thanks to a childhood trauma when my family laughed at me for using the wrong Chinese word for watermelon (it has been nearly twenty years, but the humiliation still rankles, and I have been unable to speak Chinese to my parents since), but I can’t. It’s too good. A slice of watermelon is the perfect thing on a hot summer day, the gustatory equivalent of a cold shower, and even when it is a cold and rainy July day, it seems to bring the feeling of summer with each bite.

The best part of the watermelon is the heart of it. The part near the rind is paler, less flavorful. Even the texture is bland on the tongue in comparison to the crisp, red core that explodes with juice in your mouth. I dream about it all year until it is summer again and I can sit down on a hot summer night with a bowl of icy cold watermelon and feel the coolness of it run down my throat and send a shiver all over my body.

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