The Poor Man's Feast Shortlist
Greetings from the schvitz, as my people say.
(Schvitz: noun, sauna, or steam bath; verb, to sweat.)
The dog days. Hot as Hades. My friends in the UK are wilting in the heat (and most do not have air conditioning) and my heart goes out to them. Here in New England, lawns are dying, vegetables are begging for water, air conditioners are groaning under the strain of incendiary temperatures and stifling humidity.
I’ve never been good with or felt well in the heat; I’ve just never liked it, even when I was very young. As a child, I was taught by my Brooklyn-born grandmother (who also hated the heat) the tricks that every city (and probably country) person learns early on to stay cool: the clean rags, soaked in water, stuck in the freezer for a few minutes, removed, and draped around one’s neck. Letting a faucet run cool water on your wrists. A cool shower before bed. Sleeping on top of a sheet, naked. Drinking far more water than you think you should. No alcohol, which cranks up your internal temperature. Slicing a couple of cucumbers, sprinkling them with a little bit of Himalayan sea salt before popping them back into the fridge to chill down. Sitting still in front of a fan, and not moving a muscle.
I have a vivid memory of my grandmother, circa 1974, taking Chips, our sweet Airedale, onto the terrace, and pouring a saucepan of cool water over his body and his feet, and laying a cold, wet rag over his face and ears. He stood there wagging at her, confused, but probably more comfortable. Whatever you do, please remember your animals.
Here is this week’s list of things I’ve found that keep me cool (or at least help me forget about the heat). I’m opening this up as a conversation for paid subscribers, so I’d love to know what you do when it’s too hot to move.
Eat all the salads. I’m spending a lot of time perusing Emily Nunn’s The Department of Salad which, if you don’t subscribe to it, you should. One of my favorites is the Peach, Arugula, and Greek Yogurt Salad, adapted from Atlanta’s Union Station. Emily is a woman who seriously likes her peaches, but every salad recipe she publishes on her Substack is extraordinary.
Move the kitchen outside: I know that many of you are city dwellers and don’t have access to a grill, but if you do, use it. And if you don’t, find a stovetop cast iron grill (I love this one, and have had it for over twenty years) that is oven-proof (which sort of defeats the purpose of cooking outside, but oven cooking is fine. It’s stovetop cooking that you want to stay away from). My favorite peach recipe is here, below. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, omit the prosciutto, use Balsamico Tradizionale in place of the honey, and swap out the ricotta for a plant-based variety.
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