A salute to the pleasures summer brings -- from cool drinks to steamed crabs

August 07, 1996|By ROB KASPER

It is a sign of summer when your coffee changes color. On warm afternoons you drop ice cubes in your coffee and add a shot of cream. The cream cloud descends on the ice cubes, like an ocean wave rolling over rocks at the beach. The color of the coffee changes from black to mocha, and the personality of the drink changes from a hot, start-your-engine beverage to a cool, indulgent companion.

It is a sign of summer when you find yourself lingering in a neighborhood restaurant, Kelly's, in the 2100 block of Eastern Ave., on a Friday night waiting for your order of carryout crabs. You are not agitated at the delay. At Kelly's they steam crabs only a few nights a week, and they don't begin steaming your carryout order until you show up at the restaurant. The procedure insures that the crabs will still be hot when you get them home.

It is a sign of summer when your car smells like steamed crabs. On the drive from the crab house to your house, you turn off the car air conditioner, and keep the windows up, to keep your order of carryout crabs hot.

It is a sign of summer when later that night, your houseguest calls up his folks in Connecticut to tell them when he will be flying home and he can't resist teasing them by saying: "We had crabs tonight. Eat your heart out."

It is a sign of summer when you start eating whole tomatoes as if they were apples, picking them out of a bowl on the kitchen counter, taking a bite, sprinkling on a little salt, then eating more.

It is a sign of summer when you buy limes in bulk. Some are squeezed and go into marinades for fish. Some go into salsas. Some are used to make a limeade, an old-fashioned drink made of lime juice, sugar and water that never ceases to quench thirsts.

It is a sign of summer when the pantry's seemingly unending supply of canned tuna suddenly vanishes. Where have all the cans of tuna gone? They have been stuffed into cored tomatoes, or cantaloupes, culinary moves that can be successfully employed only in the summer, when the flesh of these tuna-holders is sweet enough to balance the tang of fish.

It is a sign of summer when peach cobbler expectations rise, when your 11-year-old comes running into the kitchen and grabs a bowl of sliced peaches from your hands, convinced he has been wronged. He suspects that peach cobbler has been made and that he has not been told. The kid sniffs at the bowl, discovers that it holds peaches and cream, and like a cop letting a speeder off with a warning, gives your bowl to you. "Just checking," he says.

It is a sign of summer when it is 10 o'clock at night and you are sitting in the back yard eating supper. June Bugs are dive-bombing the candles, you are polishing off those bits of grilled chicken; sliced tomatoes in olive oil; and summer squash that you sliced, brushed with olive oil, salted with sea salt, then grilled. You are feeling proud of yourself that you acted spontaneously earlier in the evening and rushed off to see the movie "Purple Noon" at The Charles, that had subtitles. You are sitting at the supper table trying to talk about filmmaking with your teen-age son, and you realize this will be a limited discussion. The kid has seen six or seven films this summer, you have seen only two.

Finally, it is a sign of summer when you start drawing up a list of things you must do -- eat a crab cake at the Lexington Market, crack open a locally-grown watermelon, finish reading that novel -- before this summer -- the season of strong flavors and sweet freedoms -- comes to a close.

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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