The Flavors of Summer

Memories of Tastes

Black Diamonds

A long time ago, we bought the Black Diamond, big, round, and dark green, from the H.E.Butt grocery store down Fredericksburg Road ("Fred Road" we called it, as we knew it well -- it was our route to everywhere) a ways toward San Antonio. It snuggled on the back seat by my side, my arm embracing its curves (the two of us without seatbelts, as there weren't any then), with Bro Bill, the only son, riding shotgun in the front seat. Nearing home, we stopped in at the neighborhood ice house, not to share a beer around the wooden picnic tables (our mom, Little Dove, would have had a problem with that! "Where have you been?"), but to pick up a block of ice (as well as a few celebratory long-necked bottles of Lone Star to go). The ice was wrapped in burlap and stowed in the trunk. By the way, the HEB stores, back then, did not sell beer, nor cash the paychecks of the Pearl and Lone Star brewery workers, but facing competition from less stringent grocers, the morals were loosened through the years, to the joy and ruin of many.

Back at the little white frame house that Chief (our dad) built for us in '47, the giant ice cube was placed in a galvanized wash tub, and Chief chipped it up with an ice pick. Being a protective dad, only he was allowed to chip the ice, as the pick was a dangerous tool and we might bumble somehow. Once the ice was prepared, the watermelon was set to rest and chill, covered with frozen slivers, and topped with the burlap, while the not really essential balance of the Fourth of July meal was prepared. Under the shade of the roof-high banana-less banana tree, huge because of the almost constant flow of water from the washing machine in the nearby tool room, the ultimate treat waited quietly, growing icy cold by the hour. It was all we could do to resist it, as we filched ice chips to assuage our desire and nurture our imagination.

Finally, after we consumed the requisite hamburgers, grilled outside, and topped with slices of cellophane-wrapped tomatoes (four to the box), and iceberg lettuce, onions and pickles, mayonnaise and mustard (no ketchup), washed down with pop and, yes, beer for the adults, the giant melon was placed on a bench and sacrificed to our impatience. The first insertion of the knife wrenched from the melon an explosive crack, as it opened to reveal its cold, red sweetness. Each slice held the prime portion, the heart of the melon, and it was savored first and remembered long afterward -- much like the tip of a piece of pie. The juice ran down our arms and chins, the seeds were flicked to the ground, and otherwise tolerated for the sake of the cold, watery redness. Ahhh, it was great; I can taste it now. Black Diamond -- the watermelon of the 1950s. Perfect on a hot San Antonio Fourth of July, or any day in July, in any year.

  • The Flavors of Summer

    Ah, summer, when the degree of heat and the languor of the hours seems to intensify the flavors and aromas of the bounteous foods available to us. As we do every summer, we requested the food staff to share memories of summer foods and received a delicious bounty in return.
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