used to "rediscover"
summer, the same way I "rediscover" hot spiced cider every fall,
Shamrock Shakes every spring, or watery Swiss Miss Cocoa with those
little styrofoam marshmallows every time the first good rainstorm blows
through. Growing up, Grandma's watery home-squeezed lemonade
was as much a part of my childhood summers as library books and shade
trees and warm wormy raspberries, eaten straight off the bush. Even
into my teen and adult years, lemonade was often the hot weather
beverage of choice ... especially when *fortified* with plenty of
bitter cheap chablis. (Inexpensive high; you can drink buckets of it
and remain vertical most of the evening; semi-manageable hangover
afterwards.) But then I managed to pretty thoroughly overdose on
lemonade, the summer I lived alone in the Tree
House. Not only was lemonade a lot cheaper than carbonated beverages --
and when you're digging under the sofa cushions every morning, looking
for your bus fare, every nickel and dime counts -- it was also a heck
of a lot more convenient. In those days, I had to cart my groceries
home on the rickety Tri-Met #32 every night. One can of frozen lemonade
a lot less than, say, a two-liter bottle of Pepsi. Plus it left plenty
of room in the grocery bag for the more important groceries ...
a box of Mountain Chablis, or a six-pack of Saxer's Lemon Lager, or
both. I drank so much lemonade, during the summer of 1998, that
eventually I grew to
loathe of the taste of it, the smell of it, the sight of it in my
refrigerator, the sticky residue on my kitchen counters and my
doorknobs and my computer keyboard. Plus after a while I began to
equate lemonade with hangovers, homesickness, leaky air mattresses,
failed romance, far-away family. It's probably no wonder that I haven't
sought it out very often in the years since.
now all of a sudden
lemonade is back ... with a vengeance.
and I were having
our weekly emergency dinner at Applebee's a couple of weeks back,
during the first of a series of epic heatwaves here in the East Bay.
Lately Applebee's has sort of become our default Where
do you want to eat?/I don't know: where do YOU want to eat?
restaurant of choice ... especially on those limp and uninspired
evenings after a long day of dirt and newspapers, when it's just too
damn hot to cook and we're too frazzled to think more creatively.
It's certainly not the ambience at Applebee's that draws us back, week
after week. For reasons we have never been able to figure out, they
persist in seating us in The Shrieking Infants Section, even though we
are 1.) middle-aged, 2.) never accompanied by Shrieking Infants and 3.)
clearly not in the market to acquire
any Shrieking Infants of our own. It's not because we're crazy about
the menu, either. (Although I must admit they do make a decent house
salad. And there is something weirdly addictive -- if redundant --
about the Chicken-Fried Chicken.) Mainly we go there because Applebee's
is currently the only generic, all-purpose "family style" chain
restaurant on the entire island, now that Lyon's has closed ... and at
least once or twice a month, generic/all-purpose/"family style" chain
food fits our needs better than anything else. When the nice young
Applebee's waitress came to take our drink orders that night, I
automatically ordered my usual -- "Sprite or 7-Up, either will be fine"
-- and then I sat there and waited for David to order his usual iced
tea, no sugar, two lemons. Except that he didn't ask for an iced tea
this time. Out of the clear blue sky, he asked for a lemonade,
of all things, which promptly threw the order of the beverage universe
into spinning lopsided chaos.
lemonade? Why didn't
*I* think of that?
spent the entire meal
enviously eyeballing David's drink ... especially once the ice in my
soda began to melt. Watery soda -- especially watery Sprite, in the
middle of a heatwave -- is an abomination. Lemonade, on the other hand,
is one of the few cold drinks I can think of that is actually improved
by melted ice. In fact, the more watery and anemic it is -- the more
like my Grandma's fresh-squeezed -- the better I like it.
going to finish your drink?" I asked David, all innocence and
indifference, once we'd paid the bill and were getting ready to leave.
When he said no, he'd had enough, I grabbed his half-empty glass with
both hands and chugged it down like Lance Armstrong chugging Aquafina
at the end of the
Tour De France.
tasted like coming
very same night I
insisted that we stop at the grocery store on the way home from the
restaurant so I could appease my sudden lemonade jones. I was between
paydays that night, so I bought two of those industrial-sized jugs of
cheap store-brand lemonade. (Slightly on the oversweet side, but
drinkable.) Within 48 hours, both jugs were empty. I went back on
payday and bought two more, springing for the more expensive Minute
Maid Fancy-Pants 'Premium' this time. (Slightly on the acidic side, but
drinkable.) Once again I went through them both in less than 48
hours. Since then, I've pretty much turned into a lemonade-drinking machine.
Lemonade with wheat toast in the mornings. Lemonade with my cottage
cheese and fruit for lunch. A splash of lemonade for flavor in my water
bottle when we're bike-riding. A bedtime lemonade, as I'm curled in bed
watching my subpar summer-replacement reality-TV shows. I drink it at
home, at the office, on the bike trail, in the Subaru. I'm not a
lemonade snob, either. I'll drink it pink or yellow ... pre-made or
frozen concentrate ... out of the can or out of the bottle. (Although
I'm actually thinking about going to East Bay Restaurant Supply this
weekend and buying one of those cut-glass lemon juicers like Grandma
used to have, just so I can more authentically replicate the lemonade
of my childhood, seeds and all.)
can't really explain this sudden new
obsession with lemonade ... except that it's cold and it's sweet and it
tastes like my childhood, and it doesn't keep me awake all night or
give me heartburn or make me have crazy dreams about airports and
overflowing toilets all night long. I can pour a big glass of it over
crushed ice and leave it sitting on the headboard or the kitchen
counter or next to the computer, while I go off and do laundry or make
a phone call or work on the Upstairs Neighbor Guy voodoo doll some
more, and when I come back it's just sitting there waiting for me, all
melted and watery and perfect, just the way I like it. It's a very
low-maintenance sort of beverage.
course, I know that
I'll be sick to death of lemonade in another few weeks. Like a lot of
things I love suddenly and unreasonably (see: Don Johnson, "Last of the
Mohicans," chat rooms, KFC Honey BBQ Wings), I'm aware of the fact that
I'm probably overjonesing here. By the end of the summer I'm going to
be so sick of the smell of lemons -- real or otherwise -- that it will
be another five years before I'm able to look at a can of Lemon Pledge,
a nice frosty cold glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade.
that's OK. I know
that lemonade will be there, in the Summer of 2008 ... just waiting for
me to "rediscover" it all over again.
to throw a rock?