It is with a sense of trepidation that the subject is broached at all. Maybe it’s akin to moths being drawn to fatal flames or criminals returning to crime scenes. This admitted, I introduce this week’s topic—watermelons and recipes. They’ve gotten me into considerable trouble in the past, and here I go, diving headfirst into controversy’s inviting pool…
As Sister Maria sang with the von Trapp Family Singers (remember “Sound of Music?”), let’s just start at the very beginning, a very fine place to start… I, a mere collegian, had just survived my freshman year. My summer aspiration was to earn minimum wage on the lowest rung of the journalistic ladder as the “editorial staff of one” for the Brown County Gazette’s June through August editions…
There were no illusions of earning national, state or even countywide writing laurels. My prayer was that the inked-up back shop guy and I could put out a paper each Thursday. Usually, it was 8 to 12 pages, and every word in the news space came from my standard Underwood typewriter that nearly always needed a new ribbon. Also, the “x” and “q” keys were always sticking. (My theory was that it was from lack of use, since most words didn’t require these letters.)
Whatever came in the front door, despite often being of dubious news value, was appealing to me, particularly if only minimal editing or re-writing were needed. After writing all the copy, proofing the ads and getting engravings made for pictures, my editorial assignment was finished for a few hours until the press rolled. Then, I rolled up my sleeves, folded the papers by hand, activated the addressograph gizmo (becoming an ink-stained wretch in the process), slapped on mailing labels and dropped the Gazette’s at the post office…
With school out, many of our usual news sources dried up, and for that first summer issue, a farmer brought in the biggest watermelon he’d ever grown. In fact, it was the biggest one he’d ever seen in the county. Would we like a picture? Of course we would. (The thought occurred that he just might leave the melon. He didn’t.) In the next issue, we ran a picture of Farmer Brown proudly displaying “the county’s biggest watermelon.”
It wasn’t. The day after the paper came out, his neighbor came in with a still larger melon, and yes, he expected a photo, too. Same thing the following week. You get the drift.
In one issue we devoted an entire page to several farmers, all vowing to have grown the biggest melons. (One guy brought in “the smallest melon,” claiming it was lost in a crease on the palm of his hand. “I don’t see it,” I said. “I told you it was small,” he answered…)
While we obviously erred in suggesting that ultimate melons had been grown, one cardinal rule was followed: We made every effort to spell the farmers’ names right. Now, almost a half-century later, I smile when examining some newspapers that may feature two or three pages of snapshots—like the ones we used to fill extra pages in the school annuals—without a single person being identified. I figure they don’t have much else to run, or have no melon pictures to fill space…
On the recipe front, I take great pride in this very column to announce to readers across Texas an important new recipe that may not revolutionize breakfast menus, but then again, it may. (Recipes made me sick in my early days of journalism. I had a hard time “getting them right.” One long ago issue included a recipe calling for a “supful” of flour. A woman called in, saying she had heard of “sips” but not “sups.” I told her there were four “sips” in a “sup,” and never heard from her again. Maybe her husband came in from the field, wondering if we really meant “CUPful,” which, of course, we did.)
Again, apologies for digression. My wonderful new recipe, born of necessity, may extend both marriages and life spans. Wives—typically the collectors, filers and regular users of recipes—are ecstatic when hubbies offer to help out with the cooking. My culinary offerings have been limited to grilling outdoors and preparing tuna salad indoors—until now!
Our grandson Ben, who’s into this counting thing at age two—so far, in English only—laughs when he counts Poppy’s recipes—two! Now, he screams “three!” when he invades my recipe file…
Dreams abound. This new recipe could land me on Emeril’s Cooking Show. If Julia Childs calls, she’ll just have to take a number. There could be interviews for food pages, product endorsements and heaven knows what other culinary fame lies ahead.
OK, you’ve waited long enough. Here it is (drum roll, please):
Follow recipe carefully. Get out pan and ingredients usually used in making cinnamon toast. (Bread, butter, sugar and cinnamon; use conventional oven only, ‘cause microwaves shoot goop all over the place.)
Return sugar to cupboard; use marshmallow cream instead. (That’s what I did, except I had no sugar to put back. We were out of sugar.) Butter the bread lightly; cover it with marshmallow cream generously. It is hard to use too much. Then, apply cinnamon gingerly (or is it ginger cinnamonly?).* Toast until you see the tiny beads of cinnamon rippling across the sea of bubbling marshmallow…
Magnifique! It is a melt in your mouth delight. Look out, Krispy Kreme. My new homemade delight—yet to have a “catchy” name—may challenge your supremacy.
Clip and file. This marvelous new recipe will be re-printed in this column from time to time, but not just because one or two people want it. It may appear no more than annually. Realizing that you may have favorite recipes—or may even be a champion watermelon farmer—I offer this advice: Share the recipes and “melon whopper stories” with your friends. Do not—I repeat, do not—send them to me. I don’t expect to wade further into the recipe waters; they are fraught with unknown dangers.
And I no longer have authority to run pictures of the biggest watermelons ever!
* Because of possible catastrophic cooking outcomes, please omit all references to “ginger” above.
Dr. Don Newbury, a longtime Texas educator, is now an author/speaker/columnist in the Metroplex. Tis column first appeared in 2003. He may be reached at (817) 447-3872, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.