The Remembrance of Things Watermelon

Proustian Watermelon

Yesterday, I promised “Proustian.”  And watermelon.

 I have to confess to not having read much Proust.  I know about the alleged inspiration–the tea and the little cakey-cookies (which, in turn, always makes me think of the children’s book of the little girl who, with others, traveled in two straight lines.)

(In case, you are not a children’s book devotee, that’s Madeline.)

I do have a vague memory of the beginning of the Remembrance Of Things Past, in whichthe writer/narrator is in bed, remembering (I think) the shushing sounds of his mother’s feet in the hallway, and too, of a candle or lamp. 

I am right now in a bed, listening to the shushing sounds of people’s air conditioners.

Watermelon is really great stuff, with or without Proust.

When I was a child, the melons were huge, and generally meant group activities, picnics, barbecues.  It brought a communal aspect even to a meal of just my family.    (I suppose that’s also the feeling that comes from sharing a roast, but a huge green and red fruit seems somehow merrier.)

I internally dubbed one Aunt a genius because of a fruit salad which she poured back into the scooped-out watermelon like huge oblong bowl, complete with rind handle.  (The salad was doused with a hefty quantity of rum, which probably also fueled my childish awe.)   Pre-sushi bars, cooks were not nearly so creative with presentation; this seemed extraordinary.

As I grew older, I had a more personal relationship with the fruit.   They were making them a bit smaller then a half-fridge size by then, and I would sometimes buy one even just for myself.  That was a time, both for me and the world, of wacky diets whose simplicity -you just ate one food, or one kind of food — was supposed to be somehow magical.   Now, they would probably call these cleansing diets, but, back then, we were fairly open about our goals  – melting pounds fast.

The watermelon diet.  It was hard to leave the apartment when following it.  Particularly if, like me, you followed it in a manic, stomach-bulging way.  (One further problem – even watermelon is not slimming if you eat enough of it.)

When my daughters were little, they were introduced to Wattamelon!  In Florida!  At Friendly’s!  It was a blend of dyes and sugar that looked amazingly like a wedge of the real stuff – lime, lemon, watermelon sherberts layered, then speckled with chocolate bits.  

It seemed to symbolize Florida for my kids  – a place where everything seemed bright,  flat, plastic, a place not just of Friendly’s, but Walmart.  (We didn’t have either in NYC.)  Of aisles, and lights, and brightness, and cheap largess.   Even the plants – palm trees – had a waxen, unreal, surface.

Summers were spent in upstate New York, a rocky, un-flat place, where my mother-in-law,  an extremely elegant woman, would relate a saying about watermelon at every picnic — it was an Italian saying (which she repeated in the original Italian, of course) about how it filled the stomach, quenched the thirst, and washed the face.    The last part was said with a curved smile, and slight caress of the chin and cheeks.   It was a story essentially told to make sticky guests feel at ease;  she herself could manage to eat the juiciest wedges without a single drip.

Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized, Vicissitudes of Life

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