Waking Up in the Midst of Summer

08.11.11 Leo is: going to his first movie theater (Winnie the Pooh) this week!


Summer is funny. I finished up a bunch of work in mid July and since then? Not sure. It has been H-O-T. Leo and I have been hitting the city pools, freezing every kind of juice we can think of, and cooling off at our local library. If I had a to-do list for this month, I seem to have misplaced it, along with any memory of it.

And yet… Things get done. I’ve reached wood again on my desk, having dispatched with months of no-longer-relevant papers in a quest to find a contract I was sent a while back (oops!). And then we found grain moths in our pantry: little fluttering things that build webby strands through everything from pasta to cornstarch. They infuriated me so much that before I had thought the project over I was tearing through the kitchen throwing out every old, suspicious or unpopular ingredient.

I started with the afflicted pantry and kept going, tossing chutneys and other old condiments in the fridge, giving up on bags of frozen almond flour, a lasagna that looked like a snowman, and such a large collection of egg whites I was astonished. Yes you can freeze egg whites—but there comes a point!

Online, I price-compared airtight food storage canisters, starting with a romantic notion of square, clear, stackable, unbreakable, lightweight glass, and ending up filling a shopping cart with plastic at Ikea while Leo agonized over what to name his new stuffed rat (why does Ikea sell stuffed rats? And why is ours called Mary?). Washed, dried, and instated in our essentially bare cabinets, the new canisters look a lot like an Ikea catalog—particularly because most of them are empty.

When we were leaving for a visit down to Maryland (Aaron’s Dad’s retirement party—after 37 years with the same organization!) having a cleaned-out kitchen left me feeling light and pure. Coming home days later, after a long bus ride, things looked a little less uplifting. At my mother-in-law’s house in Maryland, the kitchen is not only chock-full of every food item you could imagine, it’s also air-conditioned. Our muggy apartment and shiny new, near-empty pantry was a rude awakening.

I salvaged some summer squash, sautéing it with an onion and tossed with frozen cheese tortellini and basil from our patio. And we fell happily asleep in our own beds. The next morning, there was enough milk and cereal for Leo, but after he and Aaron left for the day I began to circle the kitchen like a hungry wolf. (Refusing to shop until we picked up our CSA.)

Then I noticed the buttermilk. I poured a little shot. Delicious! Why don’t more people glug this stuff? So refreshingly tangy. And when I remembered the bag of blueberries in the freezer I knew I was onto something: specifically, a frothy violet breakfast drink that is definitely worth making again. Insert saying about the mother of invention. As soon as I’d downed my blueberry-buttermilk cooler, I made several phone calls, emailed everyone I meant to, set up a couple meetings, lined up some work and cleaned the house. I tell you, this drink is like air-conditioning for the brain.

Recipe: Blueberry-Buttermilk Cooler

Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.