August. It's seems I've always lived in places where the weather in August meant two things: Oppressive heat and choking humidity. When I was a kid, escaping the heat meant a trip to the beach, with it's soothing, rhythmic ocean waves. Sadly it was only a brief respite, forcing us to be much more resourceful when back in the non-beach world. Sprinklers were an old standby. The Slip and Slide was fun, but after the "Slip and Slide as Sledding Ice Ramp" incident the previous winter, we couldn't always count on our parental units to unearth the beloved yellow plastic sheet from it's well hidden storage place. (The same place, I think, where the lawn darts of danger had been stowed in perpetuity.) Ice cream was always an option but hand cranking that homemade ice cream gizmo as a kid got old very quickly. But it was when Mom broke out the watermelon that we were most happy.This is how I remember watermelon. A huge oblong thing that you had to carry with both arms. A huge thing full of seeds. Sweet as candy and bursting with juice. I always envied my brothers because as soon as my mom would start carving out hunks, they would skin out of their shirts, and were soon covered in the red stuff, seeds sticking to their skin like ticks. It wasn't just a snack, it was entertainment. Who could spit a seed the furthest? Who was most accurate? Could you shove a seed into one ear and shake it out the other? Would a watermelon seed germinate in your stomach if you swallowed it? Would the vine snake out your...well, you get the idea. Watermelon was summer. Watermelon was also the only remedy to "Old Bay Burn". Old timer Marylanders know what I'm talking about - that sensation your lips experience after consuming a healthy pile of steamy hard shelled crabs. Watermelon balm works every time.
Flash forward to today's hot and sticky August. The watermelon? Smaller and seedless. Frankly I think the seedless part is a gyp. Are today's parents so paranoid of the dangers of watermelon seeds that they are something to be avoided at all costs? I think the youth of today are missing out. Then again for all I know Nintendo Wii has a watermelon spitting game you can play with Grandma in the living room. Feh.The watermelon of the new millennium comes in all shapes, sizes and colors, from the traditional oblong to teardrop to square to tiny and round, and from Orangeglo to Yellow Crimson and Cotton Candy. The above beauty is a "Jade Star", and the bonus for me was that it was grown locally and sold at my local supermarket. Less gas spent transporting the product to the store and getting it from the store to my home. One thing that hasn't changed - the sweet, satisfying goodness of a mouthful of ice cold watermelon.