I believe watermelon to be one of summer's finest offerings. Alabama summers are hot and humid, and sometimes the only relief is a wedge of ice-cold, sweet and juicy watermelon. Here's what you do:
∙ Buy a watermelon at the farmers market. A big one.
∙ Put it in the igloo cooler and cool it down with a bucket of ice.
∙ Place sheets of newspaper on the picnic table.
∙ Remove watermelon from cooler and place on top of newspaper.
∙ Use a big knife to cut watermelon in half lengthwise; slice into wedges. Big ones.
∙ Bite into the sweet red flesh and let the juice run down your face.
∙ Remember to spit out the seeds.
One time my Granddaddy took us out to his farm to get watermelons and he wanted us to try some yellow ones. We all knew he was just teasing us, knowing full well that there was no such thing as a yellow watermelon. Well, he cut that thing open on the tailgate of the pick-up truck and sure enough, it was yellow inside! We couldn't believe it. Of course, we refused to eat anything yellow that was supposed to be red. He told us to shut our eyes and eat it and we wouldn't know the difference. I sort of liked the flavor, but swore that it certainly did not taste the same as the red ones.
I inherited my love of watermelon from my mother. Often she would cut open a watermelon, eat about a fourth of it, and that was lunch. I, too, enjoyed a good number of watermelon lunches while sitting in front of the television watching "All My Children". Mama was right--it really does "fill you up."
Mama also showed us how to make watermelon teeth, which led to a good bit of hilarity in the summer. Once you've eaten down to the rind, you cut a small piece of rind that fits into your mouth like a mouthpiece. Then you cut out some crazy-shaped teeth, place the rind in your mouth, and smile to show off your new stylish teeth. (Summer really was more fun when there was no cable television or video games!) Once we got tired of making teeth, we moved on to the watermelon seed spitting contest. I was never very good, but it didn't stop me from trying.
Daddy didn't eat as much watermelon as we did, but when he ate it, he always sprinkled his with salt, which I thought was very strange. When I asked him why he would put salt on fruit, he replied simply, "It brings out the sweetness." As a food editor, I now know that to be one of the functions of salt, but back then, I just thought it was weird.
It has only been in recent years that I have come to value watermelon as a recipe ingredient and love to use it in a sweet salsa, a tangy salad or a frozen dessert. But for me, still, the best way to enjoy watermelon is biting right into a big wedge and letting the juice run down my face.