Fog hangs over El Cerrito much of June and July. The California coast lays under a thick wet blanket while the valley bakes under the sharp, bright sun. Some days on the coast treat us with an enthusiastic smile of sunshine. Many don’t. Some days the sun sleeps on a teenager’s schedule. The thermometer hangs out at a sleepy 58 degrees Fahrenheit all morning and doesn’t get out of sweats until about noon.
Summer arrives in August, swings her golden hair over the hills and fills the air with the smell of peaches, blackberries and plums. Those pink styrofoam balls labelled as tomatoes pose as the real thing in the Spring, but tomato bushes don’t have those tender, soft tender handfuls at least until August. And the best tomatoes often arrive in the golden light of late September and early October.
The summer signals the end of the season when artichokes go on sale at Giovanni’s for 19 cents. The abundance of California produce hits its peak when the valley has endured the worst of summer’s punishing heat. Many people in California forget that they have access to fresh local produce. They end up buying green, unripe fruit and tired, tough lettuce bred for long truck rides to a Safeway distribution center.
Rain washed up against the house at 4 AM one morning. Benjamin stared at the window in awe and surprise as rain splashed against it for the first time in his life. He listened attentively to the thunderous pounding of a real Pacific storm. The tires of the newspaper delivery car made that slick sound against the pavement. The paper landed with a thud on the wet concrete. Mid-October tends to be a little early for Pacific storms, but in the face of a drought, we could have used early rain in September.
A little comfort food kept me company that morning after giving Elijah and Benjamin their bottles. Hunger arrived early for me. At about 4:40 AM.
I cut up figs, mixed a little honey and lime in a dish, drizzled it on the figs then put them into the oven. It’s odd how hunger fades when the primitive part of the mind knows food is on the way. I pulled the ribs off a few leaves of swiss chard. Eat leaves, not seeds. Poached an egg for about three minutes until it floated white like an angel. Steamed the chard, then tossed it with Dijon mustard, vinegar, anchovy paste and red pepper flakes. Toasted thin slices of whole wheat sour dough bread until it developed a nice crunch.
With moments like these, the end of summer arrives with excitement, joy, and a little sorrow. I’m excited to share these kinds of moments with the boys, I’m feeling joy in relishing summer’s fruit, but also sorrow as I’m watching the summer fruit disappear from our backyard and the local markets.