Prairie summers are intensely hot. This year we’ve been suffering through a drought, one of the worst in our state’s history. A recent headline in the local paper even declared that it was too hot for ice cream. Living in a college town, I’ve learned that a year’s worth of road construction projects can be accomplished in just three months. Everything smells like hot asphalt, there are orange cones wherever you turn, and you’d better know at least three different routes between your home and the office.
But in the past week, the heat has finally broken. The pylons are disappearing, the walk to the corner mailbox is refreshing instead of unbearable, and our sleepy town is beginning to buzz with the activity of returning students. Autumn is blowing in.
My kitchen–which often goes into hibernation mode during the heat of summer–is also coming alive again. It starts with canning (salsa and blueberry jam in July, peach-plum-ginger jam last weekend, and grainy white wine mustard tomorrow). Yesterday I came home to a big box from Penzeys, full of spices for my canning projects.
As we transition from summer to fall, chopped salads and grilled salmon are replaced by bacon-braised cabbage and roasted chicken thighs. Ice cream and fruit tarts give way to crispy fairy gingerbread cookies and Bundt cakes laced with cinnamon & pecan streusel.
And that tiny hint of coolness in the morning wind makes me long for the deep chill of late autumn. The box of colorful, silky embroidery flosses is put away, and I dig out a long-abandoned knitting project.
I’ve lived in Kansas all my life, so I know that this momentary respite from the blazing heat probably won’t last long. But for now, I’m embracing the opportunity for wearing blue jeans, eating tomato soup, and enjoying some fresh air.