By Joe Rector

Summer’s hot weather has wilted plenty of folks this year. To be honest, it’s zapped me more than usual, and on a couple of occasions, I’ve almost “white-eyed.” When the temperatures are so stifling, appetites turn for a while, but the truth is that some foods taste better during the dog-days of summer.

Not many moms and wives want to spend much time in front of a hot stove. Heavy foods like pork chops, chili, or roasts with carrots and potatoes are delicious, but they land like rocks in a summer stomach. Instead, folks retreat to decks and patios to fire up the grills. There, hamburgers, hot dogs, and even chicken are preferred alternatives. Charcoal grills add the best flavor to those foods, but most of us have opted for the use of propane to fire up our outdoor cooking stations.

Potato salad is another one of those fantastic summer foods. It’s a “must” with picnics. Yes, those potatoes must be prepared first on the stove, but they don’t require large amounts of time and energy from the person who prepares them. As an aficionado on potato salad, I must insist that it be chilled in the refrigerator before being served.

Sandwiches often replace traditional supper menu items. Downing a bologna, ham and cheese, or even peanut butter and jelly sandwich is easier than regular items. A more complete meal includes a pile of chips and a cold drink. Sandwiches put a dent in hunger without making folks feel queasy.

Summer garden produce is in demand during the hot season. Many people look forward to eating a fresh tomato, one that has a wonderful flavor. They are much better that the tasteless orbs that are served on hamburgers or sold in grocery stores during cold weather. Corn on or off the cob arrives on many dinner plates, as do “messes” of green beans with a hefty portion of onion. If the cook of the house is willing to whip up a pan of cornbread, the meal is fit for royalty, at least here in the south. Washing it down with a big glass of cold milk makes the meal almost perfect.

No discussion of summer food would be complete with the inclusion of two dishes. First, wilted lettuce was a regular part of our meals in years gone by. Lettuce from the garden, mixed with green onions is cut up into a large bowl. Then a skillet full of bacon grease that’s been stored in a metal container on the stove is poured over the greens, and sometimes bits of streaked bacon are also sprinkled in the bowl. The Good Lord knows just how much folks love it.

While the skillet is hot, a bit more bacon grease can be added and pods of okra that have been cut into pieces and floured are dumped into the pan. When it’s finished, the stuff is poured into a bowl lined with paper towels to soak up the extra oil. The crunchier it is, the better it satisfies.

Oh sure, the dishes from years gone by aren’t at all healthy. Back then, bacon grease was a prime cooking agent. Not even a single bite of wilted lettuce or fried okra has passed my lips in years. My blood pressure and cholesterol medications can’t begin to counteract the effects of such dishes. Still, I crave them in my memory, even though I know that eating them would leave me clinging to the toilet bowl as I projectile-vomited the stuff.

Most of us choose to eat lighter during the summer months. However, before long, we’ll again mimic bears and stuff our gullets with heavy, filling foods that will help us to survive the winter, even though we won’t lose those extra pounds as our furry friends do.