It seems to me that we have a number of different ways to designate the divisions of the year in addition to the “official” ones of spring, summer, fall (or autumn if you prefer) and winter. The most common labels have to do with sports such as baseball or football season – both of which last about six months. There’s also hunting season – or actually several hunting seasons for the various types of game. We commonly allude to these unofficial seasons and most everybody understands what they mean – but I figure there’s one more . It doesn’t have a name or title although most everybody recognizes it and enjoys it.
There’s a stretch of several months I think that could be recognized as the “good eatin season”. Starting in late spring and lasting through early fall this is that time of year when we can get fresh fruits and vegetables and don’t have to rely on the canned, frozen, or commercially grown “fresh” versions we find in grocery stores. It’s not that I have anything against these store-bought products but the “real” versions are so much tastier there’s little comparison.
What got me to thinking about the good eatin’ season was when we recently had corn we bought from a couple who were selling their home-grown corn from the back of a pickup truck. We were coming home from a couple of days out of town when we noticed the truck kinda off to the side at a country crossroads. We weren’t in any hurry so I stopped to take a look. The ears were fairly large, nicely filled out and the husks were a fresh looking dark green – not the dry, withered husks of corn that has been picked, shipped and stored for some days before appearing in the produce department of a store. And yes, that corn, slathered with butter and a bit of salt, was delicious. Sure, eating corn on the cob is a bit messy, but who cares?
This incident reminded me of when I was a youngster and how we looked forward to the appearance of fresh vegetables and fruits – back in those days we had mostly canned stuff over the winter. We didn’t have hot house tomatoes commercially grown to travel well, keep their color, and maintain firmness but whose flavor is roughly that of cardboard. Nope, we had to wait until “real” tomatoes were ready, but the wait was worth it.
We had lots of locally grown fruit back in those days. Strawberries kinda heralded in the good eatin season – and they weren’t from Florida or California. Most everyone had a cherry, peach or apple tree and my Sweetheart-for-Life recalls picking grapes that grew wild along fence rows. Raspberries were plentiful and elderberries to make jelly were easily found along roadsides.
Watermelons and cantaloupe (or musk melons) were an important part of the good eatin’ season back then – much as they are today. Nothin’ to top off our “good eatin” meals like some ripe juicy melon after a Sunday meal. We even had informal contests held outside to see who could spit watermelon seeds the furthest.
One thing different from those days is that we didn’t have those outdoor grills that are so ever present on patios today – in fact we didn’t have patios. Oh, sure, we had hamburgers and hot dogs but they were kitchen-cooked. Fried chicken was the ideal meal but meat loaf to go along with corn, tomatoes, and fresh green beans cooked with some onion and a bit of ham or bacon was much more common.
Today our grills are busy with steaks, chops, burgers, ribs, hot dogs, and that relative newcomer – bratwurst. I still prefer using my ancient charcoal grill rather than a gas-fired one – and I use chunk charcoal instead of those pellets. Sure it’s a bit old-fashioned and maybe not as convenient, I think the result is worth the bother. Well, things change. My garden is much smaller now than before we downsized our home but I still have my tomatoes, sweet banana peppers and such. Fresh sweet corn, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash can still be found at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and the occasional pickup truck. Yep, the good eatin’ season is still alive and well.
I suppose any attempt to formalize and recognize a “good eatin’ season” would be futile but in the greater scheme of things what difference would it make? After all, simply putting a title on this time of year wouldn’t necessarily add to our enjoyment. Nope, As the old saying goes, “The proof is in the eating” and in this case it surely is true. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .