For someone who has written two cookbooks, I don’t spend much time in the kitchen. In fact, it may shock you that I hardly ever cook. Part of the reason is the time of life I’m at; I no longer have a family to cook for, and my husband’s food preferences are quite different from mine. It’s also that I run three businesses, and cooking is simply not how I choose to spend my time, which is always at a keen premium.
But a huge reason is what one of my favorite children’s book characters, a cat named Tiger, knew to the fullest, something to the effect of, “Life was full of many pleasures, so thoroughly simple but so satisfying, that he never tired of them.”
And so it is with food. As long as they are of the highest quality, I simply adore individual foods so much that I never feel the need to do much to them. And at this time of year with the bounty of summer harvests in full swing, the eating is so incredibly good that mealtimes are simplicity embodied.
For instance, take sweet corn. I’ve always liked it, but lately, I’ve not been bothering to cook it—instead I just eat it raw straight off the cob. I’ve tried it before, but this time I’m absolutely loving it. Cooking sometimes makes sweet corn a bit tough and chewier. The fresh ears coming in from the fields now are supremely crisp and juicy, making it a sheer pleasure to bite into, their sweet milkiness spraying across my tongue in pure corn bliss. Not even salt and butter are necessary.
The same holds true for the heirloom tomatoes making their way across my plate, accompanied by whole sprigs of raw basil, one of the best olive oils I know (the luscious peppery, herbal Frantoio Grove oil), creamy slices of whole-milk mozzarella, and a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. In fact, late summer is the only time I will willingly eat raw tomatoes—otherwise, they’re just not worth bothering with.
It’s also high melon season—cantaloupes, crenshaws, casabas, Christmas, Persians, honeydew, watermelons red and yellow. Even at the farmers market, finding a perfect specimen can still be a gamble. But boy, when you find a sublime one, inhaling its full flavor and devouring its succulence must be one of the greatest human experiences ever. Same thing with peaches (which can be even harder to find than superlative tomatoes).
Spicy red heirloom garlic, plump blueberries (with none of that chemical berry bouquet we’re so preconditioned to in processed foods), melting butter lettuce, a Hatch pepper that bites back, an honest radish. More often than not, my meals these days consist of just a bunch of raw things at their height of freshness and ripeness. No cooking, heating, or fuss.
Just simple pleasures I will never tire of, just as they should be.
P.S. If you absolutely must have a recipe, here’s one—Raw Corn Summer Salad with Apples and Jicama. It uses one of my favorite ingredients—raw sweet corn. It might sound like a most unlikely combination, served with a dressing made with yogurt, honey, and lime—but trust me, it’s delicious and refreshing on a summer day, especially when it’s too hot to cook.
P.S.S. And if you’re wondering what the children’s book was, it’s the marvelous Cat’s Eyes by Anthony Taber. One of the most lovely and beautifully illustrated books ever written about cats, and wonderful for all ages.