“I miss summer!” my husband Will said as we sat out on the deck yesterday evening, with a little merlot and smoked salmon and pate from Harriss Teeter, and candles flickering to simulate the campfire we could have used had it been a wee bit cooler and had we been located a safe distance from our house. Yes, it was a school night, but this week brought many new to-do’s at work, and Friday seemed way far away from where we we sitting at 7:00 p.m. Fall being my very favorite time of year and summer heat and mosquitoes being things I gladly put away in exchange for sweaters and fireplace action, I started out cold-hearted, a “get-over-it!” attitude bubbling up in my response. But it was quite cool this morning, and still full-on dark at 7:00 a.m. when the sanitation guys zoomed by our house on their weekly run, and I’m now feeling a spoonful of nostalgia myself, for daylight coming and going, and the sense that there’s more time in the day and in the evenings, more possibilities, more produce and vendors at the farmers’ market, more blanks on the calendar for an escapade, whether we fill them in or not. On this sun-splashed early autumn day here in North Carolina, I’m thinking about summer journeys to our friends’ farm up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where we get to collapse into the pleasures of summer with grins and sighs, taking turns in the hammock and the porch swing, reading books all morning and putting effort only into such tasks as shucking corn, harvesting basil and peas from the garden, and making more coffee. For me, it’s a baking wonderland, with time to read their cookbooks and opportunity to help clean out the freezer which included damson plums, a Southern treasure transplanted to that northern clime by my green-thumbed friend Dean. He turned some of those plums into a spectacular pie, combining them with blueberries, sugar and flour, a dab of butter, letting everything bubble up in open-faced splendor. That pie is long gone, just like summertime, but I’ve got apples and sweet potatoes and scuppernong grapes to work with for now, and the way time tends to zoom past me unnoticed, we’ll be back in the farm kitchen, rooting around in the freezer before we know it.
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of fourteen cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native, and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.