Is it just me or does everyone have songs about summer on an endless loop in their mind?
The one that's currently stuck like an ear worm is one from the late 1950s by The Jamies, a doo-wop a capella group. (I could be brilliant if I could remove the endless amount of trivia that's clogging up my brain cells. Why on Earth can I remember the group's name? It's not like they were the Beatles or The Doors.)
Anyway, sing along with me -- the chorus is really easy to remember ...
It's summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime
Summertime summertime sum sum summertime summertime...
George Gershwin haunts me every year with his aria "Summertime" from the opera "Porgy and Bess."
And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high
Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry
And yes, that was me cruising down Main Street the other night with a Beach Boys CD cranked up high. Nothing says summer like a Beach Boys song -- any one will do.
If you haven't guessed by now, summer is my favorite season. I'm not freezing my fanny off as I trudge through snow and I'm not buried under 20 layers of clothes. There's more daylight and I don't feel like going to bed at 5 p.m. because it's dark out. (I would love Alaska in the summer with its 23-plus hours of daylight a day, but would probably never make it through one day of 23-plus hours of darkness.)
This weekend, I have to wash down our deck and the furniture on it. In our house, life shifts from being indoors to living on our deck from mid-May until mid-September (or later if we're lucky). We eat our meals there and sit in the evenings until the sun goes down. Every once in awhile Mother Nature throws a light show in the way of a thunder and lightning storm.
The past two summers have been a bit noisy on the deck -- and my Beach Boys CD isn't to blame, well, most of the time. Last year, a couple of tree frogs invaded the neighborhood. The little peeper frogs are pleasant to listen to, but these frogs literally scream. This spring, they seem to have multiplied alarmingly over the winter. Sitting on the deck in the evening is like listening to the endless screaming in a slasher movie.
One of my favorite things in the summer is the round of pot-luck picnics, parties and barbecues. Everyone brings their best or favorite dish to share and there is a cornucopia of endless delights.
My mother-in-law, Corinne Button, made a wonderful hot jalapeno dip that had has been a hit a parties I've given. I like to serve it with the french bread she recommended, but it goes well with tortilla chips also.
Chop small onion and saute in butter. Pour into blender with a regular size can (about 14 ounces) of diced or stewed tomatoes. Add 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1 or 2 chopped jalapeno peppers and 1 tablespoon chili sauce. Blend and add 1 pound white American cheese, cut in small chunks, and blend until smooth. Cook slowly over low heat until thick. Keep warm and serve with french bread.
Another good barbecue recipe comes from Nick Noyes, a former photographer for the Transcript. While I am not a fan of baked beans, this one gets a lot of compliments from those who do like them. Plus, it's pretty easy to put together!
Nick's Killer Beans
1 pound kidney beans
1 pound pea beans
1 pound salt pork
5 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups bean water
Cut lines in salt pork, combine with cut onions in buttered frypan and brown. Drain and add to beans. Combine other ingredients and pour over beans. Cook 7 to 8 hours on low in a crockpot.
For a side dish, I rely on this recipe for a broccoli and rice casserole that I had a bridal shower a few years ago.
Broccoli and Rice
Whisk together 2 cans cream of chicken soup and 1 cup milk. Cook 1 package of chopped broccoli according to the package directions. Cube a small box of Velveeta cheese and 1 stick margarine. Combine all ingredients in large bowl and add 1 1/2 cup instant rice, uncooked. Spray 9x13-inch pan and bake covered for 40 to 45 minutes in 350 degree oven. Stir occasionally.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.