It’s Like A Heat Wave

The northeast region of the country where I live is now in the middle of some excessively hot weather. The temps have flirted with the high nineties, and the heat index was, in the last couple of days, in the triple digits. These are the kind of days where it’s difficult to just stand around without sweating profusely, let alone be involved in an activity or have to work outside.

The intensity of this savage heat made my wife think of my grandmother. As we talked about her, the memory made me laugh. My Nonna was famous in our family circles for wanting to make any company she had in the house a volcanic cup of coffee in the most oppressive of conditions. And there was no refusing. You had to have one, or she would be disappointed. Hopefully, you didn’t sweat too much into the coffee, changing that great taste.

It’s my opinion that my grandmother was more famous for the other operations going on in the kitchen on summer days with searing temperatures. She loved  to boil a large pot of spinach or escarole on the stove as the outside temperatures were reaching their afternoon peak, making it seem hotter indoors. She was a non-believer in the high technology of air conditioning, and although she had a stand alone fan, she wasn’t big on those either. Too much of a breeze.

In that kitchen, there was no air movement whatsoever. You felt like you were a couple of steps closer to the sun. Or Hell.

And if you were really lucky, the stove top wasn’t the only thing cooking. There may have been a tray of chicken cutlets in the oven, baking away at 400 degrees. That kitchen was not going to get cooler until it was dark, and the moon was in full view.

When you took a seat at the table, melting into your chair, you knew what the first question was going to be. I always did. In the full throttle of a hazy and humid August day, you dreaded it just a little bit.

“Joey, you wanna nice hot cup of coffee?”

 Memory is a child walking along a seashore.  You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.  ~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal


3 thoughts on “It’s Like A Heat Wave

  1. I commented above but I wanted to add the following. I have Italian relatives in Australia. As you well know, our winters are their summers. They tell me that the mother insisted on having boiling chicken soup on Christmas Day. Our Abruzzese (Casalbordino to be exact)tradition was to have chicken soup with little meat balls on Christmas and she wanted the tradition to continue even in 95 degree weather.

    1. Hi Elisa—
      Thanks very much for the comments. Although I used to complain occasionally about drinking that scalding coffee my Gram made on those oppressive days of summers past, I’d love to do it all over again!

      Keep cooking! You’re keeping tradition alive!

  2. Just as your grandmother did, this past
    Sunday I had two ovens going (in my basement kitchen). I was to barbeque chicken, sausages and lamb but it was raining. I had no alternative but to resort to one oven and one broiler. Plus add to this, fried peppers, boiling water for pasta, and a pot for sauce with braciole. It was 90 degrees. Yes, we also had our coffee upstairs in an air-conditioned kitchen with family.

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