By MIKE WEST
It's been as hot as an asphalt road on the south side of Hades.
That's what makes me want an old-fashioned watermelon cutting.
Watermelon cuttings were through maybe the early 1970s a social event around these parts ... a little bit like an ice cream social. They're still around, but pretty rare. I member the Democratic Party having one during the last general election.
Back in the day, certain individuals were known for their skill in growing melons, like the late Mr. Tom Drake, for example. You could count on him having a wagon full of good melons. Watermelon cuttings could also be family events shared "in the cool" of the afternoon on Saturdays and Sundays.
While it is perfect easy to buzz by your favorite megamarket and buy a watermelon big enough to bust your truss, I still have a hankering for those melons you don't see any more. They were round, dark green in color and perfect for cooling in a cellar or well house. And often were loaded with dark brown seeds that almost looked black.
You can't beat it on a hot summer day.
The snake-stripe varieties might be more seedless or easier to store in the refrigerator, but they just don't have than dense, sweet flesh of those old-fashioned melons, sliced up and served up on a sheet of newspaper in the backyard.
It was Saturday afternoon heaven for kids who ate as many seeds as they spit at their ornery siblings.
Men would ate their slices with a knife or just standing up, flicking away the seeds.
Ladies were a bit more delicate using a fork to gather a bite of melon before popping it into their mouth.
Others (like yours truly) loved their melon with a touch of salt. Dadgum blood pressure....
Things have changed more than a little bit the last few years with "Sugar Baby" melons making their appearance particularly at Farmer's Markets across Middle Tennessee. They're tasty and very sweet and don't have seeds. That last thing...their seedlessness...is a welcome trait particularly if you have young kids or grandkids to enjoy your melon.
(Don't swallow those seeds junior.)
I have one of those in the refrigerator right now. Well, half of one. The first half of that homegrown beauty got devoured quickly the other night.
It was a good melon, maybe even great, but still not as fullfilling of those from bygone days. Heck, these days it's possible to get watermelon in almost any serving size or form. I even had melon in Las Vegas once upon a time. It was served as part of a unique cucumber salad loaded with some top-secret sauce. It was uniquely tasty.
But still it couldn't rival the taste of a big, ruby-red slice of heaven carved up in a big slice at some Tennesee backyard. Maybe the iron in that old, thin butcher knife made the difference? More likely the flavor was due to the hours of loving care that went into growing that melon in someone's garden patch??
But I still miss the the joy of spittin' that seed at my little brother's noggin?
Blame it on air conditioning, but folks just don't go outside as much these days.