Taste of gracious living

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Summertime in the south: it’s the sound of ceiling fans whirring overhead, the clink of ice cubes in a tall glass of iced tea – sweet, of course – the heady scent of gardenias, and the chirping of crickets and cicadas drifting through the heavy night air.

We all have our favorite aspects of a Southern summertime. Today, a few of our local (and transplanted) citizens are sharing their own special memories and treasured summertime traditions…

Where it’s always greener

A Southern summer is a green one, for the most part. How could it be otherwise, with all that imported kudzu covering virtually everything that stands still (in fact, you might want to get a move on if you’re anywhere near it)?

What a pest – and yet, what a lovely nuisance kudzu is to look upon, with its heart-shaped leaves and twining tendrils. And the vines make lovely baskets in the hands of some of our local artisans.

Think about it: we may have to put up with the heat and humidity (not to mention the mosquitoes) of a Southern summer, but look at the dividends of our semi-tropical clime.

Our flora flourishes – everything from bougainvilleas to rambling roses, in every shade from pastel pink to the most royal of purples. It seems our flowering trees, shrubs, and lovely blossoms of all kinds, are one of the chief summertime pleasures for many locals.

&uot;One of my great summertime favorites is a garden of daylilies… it’s splendid,&uot;

Roberta Gamble says.

&uot;Being a gardener, summer delights me, delivering fragrant smells of roses and gardenias – enticing me with the romantic flowers of mimosa trees and hanging baskets of flowers just dripping with color,&uot; Debra Hood says.

Joanne Schrantz is likewise beguiled with the sight of blooming crepe myrtles, hydrangeas, impatiens, caladiums and daylilies.

Sherry Henderson loves seeing &uot;the birds, the butterflies, and all the summer flowers blooming.&uot;

Whether you call them fireflies, or lightning bugs, the glowing insects – and twilight romps to catch them in Mason jars – are favorites during a Southern summer for many.

Heavenly sounds

A Southern summertime is full of special sounds, too. For Ramona Martin, there is nothing quite like that unique &uot;squ-ee-ee-k&uot; the spring on a screen door makes down South.

&uot;All the ‘best’ stores had those doors when I was a kid – like Tucker’s store in Honoraville, where we’d go on the back of my uncle’s pickup truck, to get an ice-cold Coca-Cola in a glass bottle – the best kind,&uot; Martin recalls. She says she had just gotten her current home’s front screen door to the proper &uot;squ-ee-eek&uot; stage when husband Garry whipped out the WD-40.

&uot;Not being raised in the South, there are some things we had to teach him…he sure knows better now,&uot; Martin laughs.

There is no shortage of birdsong in the South, either. Avid birdwatcher Annabel Markle loves &uot;the birds’ dawn chorus and the spring peepers heard throughout the season,&uot; while Henderson enjoys the sound of whippoorwills at night.

Schrantz finds the sound of rain falling on the roof at bedtime entrancing, along with the sound of ocean waves coming in on the beach at Amelia Island, Florida.

For Hood and Martin, it’s the laughter of children playing outside at dusk that delights their ears; for Sara Torruella, the drone of a lawnmower, and the low hum of the old attic fan in her family’s farmhouse, bring back treasured summertime memories.

After a busy day making pickles, Martin also finds a special satisfaction in the little &uot;thunk&uot; her canning jars’ lids make as they seal.

&uot;That sound is so satisfying, after all the hard work in the garden, and the canning,&uot; she says.

We also love good music down here, and local bands, performing everything from bluegrass to hard rock and country, often share their talents at summer concerts and festivals.

&uot;I really do enjoy the park concerts. It’s wonderful to hear the music and enjoy the outdoors as a community,&uot; Priscilla Davis says.

Sweet scents abound

Wonderful smells abound during summer in the South, from good things simmering on the stove, to the fragrant flowers in grandmother’s garden.

Martin enjoys a sensory treat during the summer months: &uot;the fresh smell of sheets dried outside on the line.&uot;

Schrantz adores &uot;the scent of blooming honeysuckle, the smell of fragrant roses, the smell of dirt and plants after a summer shower.&uot;

It’s the &uot;tantalizing smell of succulent fruits and berries being cooked to make preserves and jam&uot; that compose a favorite summer memory for Torruella.

And everyone, it seems, loves the sweet smell of freshly cut grass and a summer rain.

A taste of the South

Would anyone argue that summer tastes mighty good in the South? We love our vegetable gardens and fruit trees, and folks are wonderful about sharing those homegrown treats with their friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

A hot and humid summer is easier to endure when you’ve got homegrown tomatoes, field peas, okra, corn, butter beans and fresh peaches to look forward to, Markle says.

In fact, many of us could easily make a meal straight out of the garden (and when we were growing up, a lot of us did).

&uot;The tastes of summer are delicious – the fresh vegetables from our garden – squash, corn, okra, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, on and on. Give me a big piece of corn bread, tea and a slice of Vidalia onion. The thought makes me drool!&uot; Bryan says.

Henderson says there is nothing better than &uot;the taste of fresh-cooked beans and peas, with fried okra, corn, and fresh homegrown tomatoes – with a side dish of homemade ice cream.&uot;

And, speaking of that frozen delight, Schrantz says the homemade peach variety is her favorite summertime taste treat.

Hood is currently enjoying the fresh, sweet blueberries, harvested from her own backyard, for breakfast each morning.

And a lot of folks savor the flavor of a homegrown tomato sandwich almost anytime.

Of course, there’s also fresh peach cobbler, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and juicy, ripe watermelons, chilled and ready to devour…are you hungry yet?

Whether you keep your doors and windows open until July, as Martin does, &uot;so I can enjoy all the sounds and smells of the summer,&uot; or you flick on the air conditioner as soon as the mercury begins to soar, there is a lot to appreciate about our summers in the South. Happy summer!