I've been gettin' water-meta

Credit: gif by simonkr via getty images

The problem with a lot of watermelon is that it's not watermelony enough. Blame it on modern commodity watermelon farming and breeding practices, climate chaos, or even the power of nostalgia, but the watermelon I eat these days doesn't taste quite like the watermelon of my youth. Today's watermelon is more like wet, pink, crunchy packing material. We live in otherwise disappointing and frustrating times, so rather than attempting to engage in complicated and time-consuming feats of botany, I tried making existing watermelon more watermelony. And it worked, which is just crazy! No wacky equipment or ingredients required—just a little bit of patience.

The kind of patience, say, it takes to peel a whole watermelon. The watermelon does not need to be a mammoth one, and I'd say go for one of those "personal-sized" watermelons, but I don't presume to know that much about your personhood, or the amount of watermelon you require, physically or emotionally. Let's say you should use one you can pick up with one hand. Peel the hard, glossy, outer part of the rind with a vegetable peeler. It may take a while, but I find the process to be viscerally satisfying in a stripping-off-dead-skin-after-a-sunburn way, so have at it.

Once your watermelon has been denuded, slice it in half, and slice one of those halves into quarters. Then, using a box or hand grater, shred off most of the light green-white rind in the manner you would mozzarella. Put those rind shreds in a bowl or lidded container, and toss them with sugar, a bit of salt, and lemon juice—however much seems right to you, but not so much that they're super-gritty. Cover those shenanigans and put the container in the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 200°F. Slice watermelon (this is a little easier if you leave some of the rind on and slice inward) as thinly as you possibly can and place the pieces in a single layer on clean baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from the oven to peel up any edges that appear to be sticking to the sheet. Return to the oven and repeat this every 20 minutes until the flesh is crisp. Thicker areas may be more like watermelon leather, and that's just fine. If you happen to have a dehydrator, by all means, use that.

While you're waiting for the slices to desiccate, chop as much watermelon as you'd like into cubes, and chill. That goes for both the melon and for you, because the drying can take up to two hours.

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Credit: photo by kat kinsman

Once the slices are dry and at room temperature, crumble the dry, pink parts into flakes. Take the watermelon cubes and the rind shreds from the fridge. To serve, place the cubes in individual salad bowls and mix in as much of the rind as you'd like. Sprinkle with the watermelon flakes and, if you can get them, black sesame seeds because they're freaking adorable and look like wee seeds.

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Credit: photo by kat kinsman

The result is a glorious little salad that concentrates, highlights, and amplifies the flavors and textures of this happy-making fruit. It's admittedly some fuss, but watermelon season rises and sets so quickly each year that it makes sense to slow down for a moment and celebrate what a marvelous melon it is.