Friday, July 03, 2009

Top Five Summer Flavors

Summer rocks, partly because I’m a teacher and I get those three months off, and partly because my birthday is June. Also partly because of warm weather and baseball and bikinis, perhaps most importantly, the summer food.

And so, this week’s Top Five counts down the most delicious edibles for the summertime. One note on the way I judged this stuff—things like burgers and hot dogs on the grill are definitely a summer must, but they’re not on the list because those things taste equally awesome in the dead of winter. The following five items are some better because they’re eaten in the summertime. Keep that in mind while you read…

#5 – Popsicles – While all popsicles are acceptable, I’m most referring to those little plastic wands with frozen Kool-Aid inside of them. The ones where you have to snip the top off with scissors, but you suck the tiny piece of frozen fruitiness out of the plastic lid before tossing it in the refuse bin. Moms don’t have to feel bad about giving their kids one of these because there’s like two ounces of juice in them. Personally, I could never chomp down on these things the way other kids could. I preferred eating about 2/3 of it frozen and then tipping the thing back and drinking down the leftover juice. Sometimes, when the popsicle was still too cold for me to chew, I’d drain all the flavor out of a particular chunk, leaving a bland, white-washed ice cube. But there was always juice at the bottom to make up for it. That’s also kind of why snow cones are so awesome.

#4 – Sweet Tea – Growing up I didn’t really appreciate the value of sweet tea, but it’s literally the perfect beverage to supplement a barbecue. Let’s be honest; if we’re cooking out we’re at least good for two or three burgers with the works, and sometimes beer can just be too heavy for that sort of meal. Soda’s too sugary, water’s too bland, and milk is always a horrible choice in excessive heat. That leaves delicious, ice-cold sweet tea, which has that refreshing splashy watery feeling going down, but just enough tingle of a taste to separate it from boring ol’ H2O. And if you’re going to do barbecue for real—I’m talking ribs, brisket, pulled pork—you literally can’t drink anything else.

#3 – Watermelon – First and foremost, God bless the person that invented the seedless watermelon. As a kid I never fully appreciated the fruit because mining for seeds made the whole process more trouble than it was worth. Now you can buy an eight-pound melon, slice the whole damn thing up in fifteen minutes, stock a gigantic Tupperware thing for your fridge and have watermelon for the next week and a half. And there’s no seeds! Cool, delightfully crisp, and just sweet enough, nothing can beat a watermelon in the summer months. Plus it’s like the only healthy thing on this list, so… bonus.

#2 – Ice Cream – My summer job for like the entire second half of my teens was a Dairy Queen, which I enjoyed very much. Because my Dairy Queen held itself in such high regard and actually did things the proper way, I transformed into something of an ice cream snob over the year. But for realzies, ice cream in pretty much any incarnation rules the universe when it’s hot outside. This is why children go berserk for the ice cream man—because he provides the nectar and lifeblood of the summer. Remember orange push-ups from the Schwann Man? Good God. My favorite growing up was the Nerds Blizzard at DQ. That or I’d get a sundae in a mini baseball helmet to add to the collection (I’ve still got all those somewhere—the complete set plus some retro caps. I rule so hard). As I’ve gotten older, chocolate ice creams have grown on me, but at the end of the day it’s all the same to me. At this point in the post you’re either salivating like a bulldog or you’re a Somali Pirate. It’s got to be one or the other.

#1 – Lemonade – That cool, refreshing drink. The bite of lemons intertwined with a syrupy, sugary undertone makes it one of the most unholiest alliances in the history of beverages. I’m talking hand-squeezed here, though the powder stuff isn’t horrible I guess. Still, when you get a lemon shake-up at the fair, or pour yourself some fresh lemonade before curling up in the hammock with a good book, or you drink a glass of lemonade in June and win the lottery in July, nothing can beat it. That’s why it’s #1 on the list. It takes a lot to beat out ice cream, but citrus does it again.

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