We live in a place where it is rarely hot. Very rarely. September and October, oddly, are the months when we are likely to get really hot days. When most of the country is sighing with relief after a long, sweaty summer and pulling out their fleeces and long pants, we are looking worriedly out to sea, willing the fog to come in and cool us off.
Last week was like that, a string of four or five days of high 80s and even mid-90s. When you live in a normal temperature range that varies only 10-20 degrees all year 'round, you become intolerant of wide temperature differences.
Because this weather only lasts a few days, we don't have air conditioning - it's usually not needed. We get out the fan and close up the house in the early morning, and it stays cool until late afternoon, when we open everything up again and pray for a breeze. Telling ourselves that it's a dry heat didn't help - we were dying.
I have a secret weapon stashed for just such an emergency.
Cached under the deck is the wading pool I bought for our dear departed canine, Cora, a few years ago when we had a similar heat wave. She, of course, would have nothing to do with it, so I tucked it under the deck, knowing there would be the need again one of these days.
Since we are in a water emergency, I couldn't justify filling it to the top, but even a few inches of cold water makes all the difference. We brought our books out to the deck and blissfully dangled our bare feet. Heaven! We made cooling waves for three days straight. And, being the good citizen that I am, I scooped the "gray water" out to water my garden.
Days like this require cool foods, as well. When I was a kid, my mother made wonderful cold soups - velvety vichyssoise; cold, smooth borscht with a dollop of sour cream in the middle; and even jellied chicken soup. If you've never had jellied chicken soup, don't scoff until you've tried it - it's wonderful on a hot day, so clean and cool! We frequently lived in warm places - Washington, DC in the summer, or Hawaii year 'round - so she had lots of good cold soup recipes.
I don't remember her making gazpacho, however - I got my first taste of that from my s-i-l, Ann, who is a marvelous cook. She lives near Washington, DC, too, so her hot weather menus are numerous, and wonderful. My Beloved had wonderful gazpacho at our last dinner at Rivoli and it inspired me to try gazpacho at home.
I looked around online to find a recipe that sounded good, and came up with this one for watermelon gazpacho. I liked the idea of mixing in summer's coolest fruit with summer's most luscious produce, fresh tomatoes. Because it was the first time I've ever made gazpacho, I mostly followed the recipe, only leaving out the bell pepper because I like bell peppers but they don't like me.
We really enjoyed the different textures from the smooth purée of the base to the finely chopped veggies and fruit in the soup to the interesting chunky pieces and crunchy croutons that I added as an homage to Rivoli's gazpacho.
Our beloved fog has returned now but the forecast is for several more hot days later this week, so I'm planning another batch of gazpacho for the very near future. If Indian Summer graces you, have some watermelon and late summer tomatoes on hand.
And a wading pool for making waves.