One summer, my maternal grandfather, born a farmer, decided to experiment on the new farmland my parents had purchased. He decided to grow watermelons.
So he grew watermelons.
One acre of them. One. Whole. Acre.
He never did anything halfway, so we had a field of watermelons, just because he wanted to see if they would grow. And boy did they grow.
I was still in grade school finishing up with exams when he planted them but we were at the farm at harvest, the fruits were ready by April and May, the hottest months along the western coast of India. Although we sold most of the crop, I snuck in a few wedges each hour, and perhaps lived on farm fresh watermelon that summer.The variety he chose were larger than a soccer balls, fed with the plentiful water source he had unearthed on the property. It was one tasty summer.
In 'Not For You', book two, I share Ana's experience of spending a summer on the farm as a young child, recollecting stories from my own life. As I wrote the stories, I relived those days, the heat and the easy going summer when I was away from all my friends, we had limited electricity, no television, one daily newspaper, and no other villages or even people around us. One of my grade school friends said that 'if' she chose to write to me, she was worried there would not be enough room on the address-space of the postcard or if she used a prepaid 'letter' sheet from the post office the address took up all the lines on the front. She had to keep her handwriting tidy and tiny! She wrote perhaps one letter each summer.
And yet, I was content.
I dont know if children in this day and age can relate to such a feeling when they can disconnect from the world but connect with themselves instead and be content. Do they? Can they? Camps, summer school, enrichment activities are all part of the mindset, not to mention gadgets. I don't know if we can truly teach children how to unwind, unless they have the space to do so - to recharge, to simplify, to engage with themselves. Can we?
But anyway, back to the watermelon. This past weekend, at a book reading, I threw together a lush watermelon cooler, reminiscent of the days of summer, when life was simple and the summers were filled with fresh juicy fruits. This lemonade is a twist on the classic masala lemonade found all over India during the summer months. Now you can fix it at home, with added flair to add the element of 'wow' to your next gathering.
Spiced Lemonade with Watermelon
Serves: 8-10, 3 oz servings
1-gallon lemonade, or limeade, chilled (homemade or store bought)
2 tbsp. chaat masala (homemade or store bought)
10-12 tips of fresh mint leaves, washed and dried
1 cup chilled vodka, optional
1 medium watermelon (trimmed into balls with a melon baller)
10-12 Dried lemon pinwheels, optional
10-12 Fresh lemon wedges, optional
Toothpicks, for the watermelon
Freeze the melon balls overnight so they keep the drink ice-cold.
In a large pitcher, mix in the lemonade, chaat masala and half of the mint leaves. Add in the chilled vodka, if using and stir well. Set to chill for at least half hour before serving.
To serve, place two or three chilled watermelon balls at the bottom of a glass, place the dried lemon pin wheels in it and pour a serving of the lemonade. Dress with fresh lemon wedges and mint leaves if desired.
Ayurveda / Health Note
Watermelon: is considered cooling for the body and is especially beneficial during the heat of the summer. It is filled with lycopene, antioxidants, vitamins and lots of fiber. However, it is best consumed in moderation (yes, surprisingly, too much watermelon can be 'warming' to the body and in excess does not help the body combat summer heat).
Homemade lemonade and limeade: is cooling as well, although is acidic.
Mint: is extremely beneficial in digestion, and is considered cooling for the body in small amounts.
Home-made chaat masala: The spices in it are beneficial on two counts - they aid the digestion of melon and other fruits that have mildly acidic content, in this case, lemons and limes.
Alcohol choices: Ayurveda does not look kindly upon alcohol, as it counters the natural processes of normal digestion of a healthy person. If you are observing a strict diet, and obviously if you have mixed company with underage guests, please skip the alcohol.
Look for a recipe in the next few weeks on home-made chaat masala (recipe is included in Not For You: Book Two, under Kalingad, Watermelon Bombs).