My 17-year-old daughter recently participated in a three-day pioneer trek. She found herself eating, and actually enjoying, foods she normally avoids.
"There's something about a trek that makes food just taste better," she said.
I wondered the same thing about summer. Does watermelon taste quite so sweet and slurpy when it's eaten in the dead of winter?
Under most circumstances, green, unripe apples are too tart for the taste buds. But they remind me of childhood days spent with my friend, Debbie McCaw. We would ride her horse, Thanksgiving, to a field that had a couple of old apple trees growing on the banks of Clover Creek. We'd wade in the stream and climb the trees to pick a few of the green apples. Then we'd lie in the shade and daydream a little before heading home. On a carefree summer day, green apples tasted pretty good.
If you listed your top 10 favorite summer foods, what would they be? Here's mine:
1. Watermelon. What's a canyon picnic without a watermelon sitting in an icy stream to keep it chilled? And eating it by the half-slice while the sweet juice dribbles down your chin, not to mention numerous seed-spitting contests?
When one of my sons played high school football, he would down half a watermelon every night after summer practices. Who needs Gatorade?
2. Corn on the cob. Two of my early memories are of planting corn with my Grandpa Sagers in his field, and then later, rolling the ears in butter. It wreaks havoc with braces, and you probably won't win any Miss Manners points when you're eating it. But I could serve tender, just-picked ears every day that they're in season.
3. Tomatoes. Compared with the rich juicy summer tomatoes, those that you buy in the winter are more like tennis balls in texture and flavor. And those little grape tomatoes can be eaten like candy. I like sun-drying tomatoes to enjoy all year.
4. Garden-fresh peas. They show up early in the season, a sign of good things to come. Lately I've fallen in love with sugar snap peas. You don't have to even bother with shelling.
5. Raspberries. Isn't that half the fun of going to Bear Lake? Fresh raspberry shakes!
6. Cherries. Making "fruit runs" to the roadside stands in Box Elder County is a time-honored tradition for northern Utahns. The Fruitway is well-known for peaches, but I love the plump cherries, often eaten while watching the 4th of July fireworks.
7. Dutch oven cooking. I usually judge a few Dutch oven contests during the summer fair season, and I'll haul out my pots for a few family events. Yeah, standing over hot coals can be a sweltering experience, but cast iron seems to add richness of flavor to whatever you cook.
8. Basil. These bright green leaves add fragrance in both the garden and the kitchen. Fresh basil perks up soups and sauces, and who can resist just-made pesto?
9. Grilled burgers. There's something about charcoal and the outdoors that makes them taste sooooo good in the summer.
10. Apricots. For many summers, my kids and I would pick a laundry basket full of apricots from my sister's tree. Then I'd turn them into smoothies and fruit leather, vastly superior to the corn-syrup based "fruit" roll-ups from the store.My runners-up: Root beer floats and snow cones.