The Summer Knows

I really enjoy a good solstice…all of summer laid out before us.

In LA, the summer heat is a party guest that arrives late then won’t leave.

As you know, the heat will come. Then the Popsicles and the lemonade stands. Vacation Bible School, where they will learn things like, “Only God can make a hummingbird.”

Which is possibly the truest thing you can learn in Vacation Bible School, or anywhere else.

Every time I see a hummingbird, I think: “Look at the colors, look at the aeronautics. That’s more than a dopey bird. That’s a religious artifact.”

A hummingbird is a reminder that nature is our real Louvre.

Every summer solstice, I think of fireflies and freshwater lakes. I think of screen doors and chili dogs and Marvin Gaye.

Every June, I think of “The Great Gatsby” and “Summer of ’42,” the tender coming-of-age story with perhaps the most splendid movie theme of all time.

The summer smiles, the summer knows
And un-ashamed, she sheds her clothes…

Thank you, Michel Legrand (the composer). Thank you, Herman Raucher (the author). Thank you, Jennifer O’Neill (the goddess).

Props to every artist who shows a little heart once in a while. A fleeting thing, heart.

And thank you, summer, for the memories you’re about to make. The banana splits. The canoe trips. The beach books. The hummingbirds.

By the way, I have a total fetish for brilliant little summer novels nobody else has read. “Summer of ’42” is one of them.  

“The Art of Fielding” is another.  Books like these have their audiences sure, but through some failure of marketing, or coldhearted literary criticism, these novels never found the major audience they should have.

I read “The Princess Bride” and “Shoeless Joe” [aka “Field of Dreams”] long before they were made into smash-hit movies.

FYI, White Fang sneezed the other day, and I said “Bless you,” as if my dog were spiritually affluent, which she is.

I mean, it’s one thing to walk along the boulevard mumbling to your wolf/dog about the Fed or the Dodgers. Now this.

When she sneezed, we were on the Starbucks patio as customers scurried in and out to fetch the coffee that they pre-ordered, never having to encounter a single soul, just snatching their cup off the counter in the kind of grab-and-go crime that Americans now prefer.

There’s an app for that, you know. For avoiding people altogether. For losing your soul.

So, there we were, White Fang and I, watching this parade of customers, including the woman who, when she laughs, she yaps like a dog.

White Fang’s ears perked up. “A poodle?”

“Sorry,” I explained. “Just a woman who laughs hard and well.”

I want a button on the Starbucks app so that when you enter the store, the baristas know you don’t mind a little chit-chat … some inane banter about the weather or the week ahead, some token of fellowship. Maybe even a joke, if anyone tells jokes anymore.

A button like that would be good for everyone. I’d always get the random banter I crave, though I can picture Starbucks workers diving for cover. “There’s that goof who wants to discuss Hungarian composers again. Run!!!”

Workers do that, you know? They review the customers behind their backs.

At Smartacus’ burger joint, he and his co-workers stand in the back and grumble about the customers who won’t watch their kids, or who make special requests of the chef: “Can this burger be a meatball?” Stuff like that.

For the record, it’s completely human to grumble. I like it very much.

“You cook like a pregnant woman,” Smartacus told me the other morning.

“Thank you,” I said. “You want cream cheese in your scrambled eggs?”

“Duh,” he said.

The summer smoothes the restless sky,
And lovingly she warms the sand on which you lie…

By the way, my son now sleeps to a sound app he found on his phone. The warm-and-fuzzy choices include “Rain in the Gutters” and “Crackling Campfire.”

Smartacus’ choice: “Prairie Dogs.” Yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip…

Bless you.

Thing is, it’s summer.

And doesn’t life seem incrementally better than it was the past couple of Junes – hardly perfect, but when has anything ever been perfect? The summer you were 8 maybe?

At least the masks are mostly gone, as is Covid…mostly gone yet not forgotten.

Remember that little incarceration? We were locked out of the movie theaters, the restaurants, even the hiking trails.

So, please don’t tell me things aren’t a little better. In honor of the solstice, and in celebration of better things to come, I’m making the cheesy egg casserole my mom always made.

Smell it crisping up?

Hope so.

Hello, summer. Lemme get you a drink.

Recipe for the egg casserole (knew you’d ask):

Spray some Pam in a 9-by-9 baking dish. Lay down a layer of croutons, then a layer of grated sharp cheddar, then another layer of croutons, then another layer of cheese. Four layers in all. In total, it usually requires 1 cup sharp cheddar, 2 cups croutons).

Whisk together 4 eggs, 2 cups of milk, 1 tsp dry mustard, ½ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp garlic powder.

Pour the egg mixture over the layers of croutons and cheese. Boom! You’re done.

Optional: Top with a sprinkling of ground sausage or bacon bits, perhaps a bit of chorizo, that you’ve already sauteed. Let the whole thing sit in the fridge for at least one hour, preferably overnight. Bake at 350 for one hour. Serves 6.

Thanks Mom!

22 thoughts on “The Summer Knows

  1. Chris, I notice your recipes are rarely low-cal. Bless you. Thanks for real food and real memories. Summer of 42! Jennifer’s long tan legs in white shorts. How could I have forgotten? You always bring back the best nostalgia for every season! OK, summer. Bring it on. I am ready.

  2. Great article – loved the book and the movie – by the way, cream cheese in scrambled eggs is served down at Hill Street – it’s called San Francisco Scrambled!!!! Tell Smartacus so he can reassert his comment!!

  3. Best line of the day, “You cook like a pregnant woman.” Smartacus, that’s brilliant and made my day. Happy Summer everyone.

  4. A lovely tribute to a magical time (at least before the fires start). Right now I’m taking a closer look at the season sitting in my sister’s living room in Madison (one of the all-time great summer towns), gazing out at the wall of trees that border her back yard, waiting for 100 year old Ruthie to roll out of bed and greet another morning with the indefatigable optimism of the Unsinkable Molly Brown. Great shout out of books, including The Art Of Fielding, which is required reading for any baseball loving Wisconsonite. Also kudos for the art of chatting with baristas. Someday over G&Ts I’ll tell you about the wonderful encounter I had with a Pasadena Starbucks employee because I came in wearing my Packers hat – which, now that Aaron has finally packed up his toys and stomped off to the Jets, I can start wearing again.And that picture of Catty. Oh my God, to paraphrase Sir Alec Guinness, the Erskine is strong in that one.

    1. Enjoy Madison, one of my all-time favorite towns. I want to hear the Starbucks story too. Best to Ruthie and all the cheeseheads. Will be in Lake Geneva and Door County in a month or so.

  5. Let me add another movie for summer: “Lifeguard”. Simple plot, actors just starting out. One of my favorite movies. And Sam Elliott in a red suit. Need I say more? Yikes…

  6. I clicked on the reader view for my web browser to print the recipe. Eleven pages, just the last two had the recipe. And the picture of your granddaughter. Well done, C.E., very well done!

  7. How about being greated like they do in sushi restaurants! Lets have some enthusiastic welcoming when we enter a place of business.

    Just listened to The Summer Knows sung by Barbra Streisand, I think the words were written by the Bergmans. So beautiful, tell the moon to wait and the sun to linger……

    1. Yes, the Bergmans on the words. Should’ve given them credit. Geniuses. They would sit facing each other in chairs, and toss out the next line. How wonderful is that?

  8. A 9″x9″ college dorm lasagna! Well played. Logging this in the “Eating Over the Sink” recipe book, next to “canned Bay Shrimp and ketchup on Uncle Ben’s” shrimp creole.
    You’ll get credit I promise.

  9. At The Solstice

    The light seems pure, white, crystalline
    Sky pale blue, thin, wispy, washed away
    In a vast avalanche of brilliance;
    Clarity is a defining liquidity
    Of air, energy a fluid presence
    Almost as if something was burning
    Everything away somewhere, leaving
    Only subatomic particles
    Of ash to recombine into light;

    At the horizon’s. vanishing line
    The past’s receding whisper frays
    And dissolves, its dark resonance
    Like the night vanquished in a city
    With strange white dreams, the slivered crescent
    Of the ever-changing moon turning
    In the sky like a wraith of cloud weaving
    Moonlight and sunlight’s beamy canticles
    Together into something so bright
    The stars would fade to mere points of lust
    Which, after today’s romance, they must…..

  10. So the big question: Homemade orstore bought croutons? You know which ones have to be best.
    So those of you familiar with Wisconsin. My granddaughter is headed there for the U. at Madison. Any must-sees when I visit?

  11. Add this one to your long list of good columns.
    Many take aways. This one is great:

    “A hummingbird is a reminder that nature is our real Louvre.”

    Also, I enjoy Forrest Gale’s response to your column.

  12. Art of Fielding was an excellent book. Read it when it first came out and I don’t know why it didn’t make a bigger splash.

  13. If ever you should want another salaried gig, you could become a minister. Your columns would be wonderful sermons — truths delivered clearly but gently, and filled with reasons to be hopeful.

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