Whew, it’s hot! In an effort to try a “more vintage lifestyle”, as my Dad calls it (or as my Mom calls it: “crazy”), we are making an effort to forgo air conditioning this summer. Our Brooklyn apartment faces a back corridor of gardens and has a lovely cross breeze, and our old farmhouse is situated in the ancient manner, facing due East/West, meaning that from an hour after sunrise to an hour before sunset there is no direct sunlight streaming in through the windows. While in winter I lamented not getting enough direct light to nurture an indoor lemon tree (the epitome of house-dwelling luxury to me), now that summer’s heat is upon us, I understand. This orientation means the house stays a good 10-20 degrees cooler than it is outside at all times. Brilliant old almanac readers. Still, Virginia in the summertime can be, well, let’s say “balmy”. For us, that means ceiling fans going full tilt boogie, popsicles in the freezer, bathing suit in the freezer, sprinkler in the yard, cotton nightgown on repeat. And still, we’ve been craving refreshment. So. Enter the summer tonic. We’ve made a few and we love them all, so here’s the first one concocted, a brew of the wild mint and lemon balm (brought by Mama to plant by the beehives) that spread and grow voraciously in every bed and along every treeline. Some people think of both of these plants as runaway scoundrels who hold flower beds hostage and generally take over, shooting up their leggy stems and heart shaped leaves wherever they possibly can. This invasive carpetbagging reputation is true in some respects, but when you consider the benefits of lemon balm and mint, both as flavor makers and as medicinals, the fact that they’re simply growing wild everywhere seems more like a little miracle than a problem. Here, a fast-and-loose miracle tonic recipe in action:
Lemon Balm and Mint Summer Tonic
2 cups packed mint leaves
2 cups packed lemon balm leaves
Gather a big bunch of mint, gather a big bunch of lemon balm, wash and strip leaves from stems. Fill a pot with water, add leaves, bring to a boil. Strain leaves, pour tea into half gallon mason jars, put in fridge to chill. You can also add honey if you want a little sweetness.
Once cold, serve over ice. Sit on the porch steps, try not to drink the whole batch in one sitting. Good luck.
Our little garden is chugging along—presiding over the (spotty) new lawn our landlord insisted on planting on the hottest day of the year—and weathering the stifling New York City heat (made even more mouth-breathingly hot by the hundreds of AC butts panting out the back of everyone’s brownstone, pointed at our zucchinis) surprisingly well. We pulled this ‘lil harvest on Sunday- two sweet knobby cukes, one lone, long red basque sweet pepper, two small banana peppers, and a mess of basil. Our eyes are trained on our one reddish tomato (one!), and anticipate its ripeness by the end of the week. Three meals worth of bounty isn’t too much- but it’s pretty darn good.
Aaaaaaaaand PLAY BALL! After hearing about the vintage baseball league that plays by 1864 rules out on Governor’s Island (more info here), we simply had to go. On a most gorgeous summer Saturday, Meags and Sweetheart and I packed up the bare essentials (champagne, bread, cheese, sunscreen) and hopped on the free ferry to go see some baseball. In short: it was awesome. The New York Gothams wore navy pants, pillbox hats (you can see the lineage of those wonderful throwback Pirates hats) and white tunics emblazoned with a gothic “G”. What they didn’t wear? Gloves. Maybe gloves hadn’t been invented or maybe all leather was earmarked for Union cavalry saddlebags, but by the 1864 rules, the intrepid fielders go barehanded. The old rules are slightly different— you can’t overrun first base, the pitches are underhand, the strike zone is from the head to the ankles, and (most noted) the barehanded fielders can catch the soft rag ball on one bounce and the batter’s out—but the game is the same, the joyous, methodical, rhythmic American wonder reminds you why the game took hold of us in the first place. In typical American fashion, nicknames abound (Crash, Monk, Bugs) and, perhaps the most nostalgic element, even the heckling is genteel…Can you picture a Yankee fan telling at the Red Sox “That was UNMANLY!”? All of this, on a divine day, with the newly regenerating skyline of lower Manhattan in the background? Perfection.
top and third image by Hiroko Masuike from this NYT article (we were interviewed, but didn’t make the cut…).
Back this week to the sweet, slow, fertile lands of my youth. Pimento cheese, morning swims, and lots of wine here we come, y’all.
After glimpsing them in New York harbor during fleet week, and seeing them streaming sails across the mouth of the Chesapeake, Daddy and I cruised down to Harborfest to see the stunning tall ships in all their furled glory. I told you I love ships. Gilded figureheads in the golden hour, fireworks amidst the riggings at sundown, all the ships in the harbor sounding their horns at once, a rude and glorious symphony—as from Whitman:
Chant on, sail on, bear o’er the boundless blue from me to every sea,
This song for mariners and all their ships.
ps. and a very happy birthday to Sweetheart… I can’t wait to share the celebration!