The passing of summer always makes me sad – not for the end of sultry days and blinding sun, of course, but for the end of market days and backyard harvests, of warm tomatoes and sweet corn. Even so, I am made equally happy for the first sweet smell of autumn when I find it in the air of some cool September morn carting the promise of cooler days and warm cider. But September is a teasing month, and those wafts of fall give way to still sultry, sunny afternoons that surprise me like a sudden slap.
It’s the contrast of these transitional days that make me think of Pablo Neruda.
If you don’t know Neruda’s poetry, it’s worth a trip to the library, particularly if you’re a food lover. Neruda, a Chilean poet and the winner of the Nobel Prize in 1971, wrote a wide variety of verse including some fabulous odes to food. My college roommate introduced me to the haunting Ode to Salt and, my favorite of all, the joyous Ode to Watermelon:
the lips, the tongue:
we want to drink
the dark blue night,
the South Pole,
the coolest of all
the planets crosses
the round, magnificent,
It’s the promise of autumnal breezes juxtaposed with the last cruel rays of sun that make me thirsty above all things and bring to mind my favorite line of the ode, “we want to drink/ waterfalls”. And so I go in search of the melon, clinging to the sweet spot of the sunny season even as I grasp the joys of transition to the days of football fields and the first taste of fall flavors.
It’s an awfully romantic way to describe a food obsession, I grant you, but that’s just how I roll.
But that transition, particularly in terms of flavors isn’t always jarring – in fact, it’s harmonious in our kitchen. That’s because when our thoughts run to tailgating we find that watermelon sneaks into many of our considerations of game-day nosh. And one of the best ways to assuage all the feels that fill our hungry heart is to incorporate melon into dishes. It keeps the flavor in our minds and mouths and makes for some pretty clever eating, too.
Consider the case of Watermelon Salsa. At first, you’re thinking of the spice and heat and how odd that might seem with our beloved sweet fruit, or perhaps you know about the secret and sacred flavor connection between tomato and watermelon – if you do, you know that this salsa makes perfect sense. The tomato at its finest is also a sweet treat, full of the same waterfalls that our friend Pablo imagined. So it’s never hard for us to imagine a dish of salsa with watermelon in it – somedays, it’s hard to imagine salsa without it.
For any doubter’s out there, we’ll show you how it works right on your own TV – if you’ll tune in to WBIR’s Weekend Today, on Saturday morning, Mahasti will be making Watermelon Salsa just in time for when football time in Tennessee really heats up.
Try it, you’ll like it – even more so if you’re reading aloud a bit of poetry – like you do before college football games, right? Or perhaps not – but you’ll be feeling it – maybe even just a bit like this….
Jewel box of water, phlegmatic
of the fruitshops,
of profundity, moon
You are pure,
rubies fall apart
in your abundance,
to bite into you,
to bury our
in you, and
our hair, and
Thanks, Pablo – we feel you!
Tomato Head’s Watermelon Salsa
8 cups watermelon, diced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 large jalapeno, diced about 2 Tbls
1 tsp salt
2 Tbl fresh lime juice
Cut Watermelon in half, then cut into 1 inch segments. Lay each segment on cutting board and carve out the flesh. Cut the watermelon into ¼ inch cubes and place in a medium mixing bowl. Add chopped cilantro, diced onion and jalapeno along with salt and lime juice. Mix everything together with a large spoon until all the ingredients are distributed evenly.
Serve as a dip with Tortilla chips. Also makes a great salsa for topping your favorite fish tacos or black bean nachos.