XVIII. Ahh, but It’s a Dry Heat

Central Delaware, July 23, 2011 – It is hotter than June in Everglades City, Florida, here today. It was even hotter yesterday, Friday. Today the temperature has gone up only to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday it peaked at 102. By 7 p.m. it had plummeted to 97. The New York Times stated the temperature hit 104 in Central Park yesterday, saying it felt like Death Valley. Oh, I don’t know, out there it’s a dry heat. I’m afraid to find out what the humidity is here.

There’s a town in the middle of the Mojave Desert, near Barstow, called Baker. I can see why. In downstate Delaware there’s a town called Blades. Today someone down there may be introducing a resolution to change the name to Blazes. Then I suppose one could say that in Death Valley it’s hotter than Blazes. I see it’s going up to 113 in Baghdad, Iraq, today. But, there again, it’s a dry heat – humidity 15 percent.

I do remember a place hotter than Blazes. It was Tucson, Arizona, in June. We flew out there from Delaware in the year, well, let’s just say I was delighted to be in Cowboy Country, because I was watching Hopalong Cassidy and The Lone Ranger on TV at the time. Emma and her dad, Granddad, took my brother and me out there to visit second cousins. We flew across country on a four-engine Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft, state of the art in that day.

When I fly, I like to sit next to the window. I like to watch the scenery and the white puffy clouds and the flaps and propellers. This day, though, was only my second flight ever. I looked out the window. “Yikes!” We called the stewardess. “There are flames coming out of the engines!” I exclaimed. Someone had to make that discovery. “Oh, that’s normal,” she assured me. “It’s when they don’t come out that you have to worry.” Well, OK, I thought. I remained a bit concerned that she knew what she was talking about.

Here are two YouTube video examples of that aircraft. If you love airplanes and flying, as I do, in particular the takeoff, you’ll love these. If you don’t, well, then, keep reading; I’ve included some hot day recipe suggestions down below.

Ahh, the joy of flying. I haven’t flown in 20 years. I can’t believe it has been that long. I have foundered in Lost Decades. I worked for a commuter airline. We flew a Beechcraft 1900C, a pressurized, 19 passenger, twin-engine turboprop. That was some aircraft. It was the BMW of its class. I flew it, one night ferrying (no passengers) from Los Angeles (LAX) to Las Vegas. The pilots let me sit in the right seat (the left seat is the captain’s seat) and pilot it for a few minutes. I did well, they said. My job was to keep the nose up and the wings level – flying on instruments and looking out the window. I lost only 500 feet altitude. They said that was good. And, maybe you can imagine the thrilling spectacle of the glow and then appearance of the jewels of the Las Vegas lights laid out across the black desert night in the far distance.

Back on the Arizona desert, our cousins drove us all over Arizona in their green Plymouth. The daily high temperatures were 114 degrees. Ah, but it was a dry heat. Indeed, speaking of Baker, my brother and I sat in the backseat. There was no air conditioning in those days. Homes, crouched low to the ground beneath cottonwood, acacia and mesquite trees, were cooled by a swamp cooler. As we rode all day on the straight, sparsely-trafficked, two-lane roads, of which, delightfully, Arizona still has plenty, we had to keep the back windows rolled up; otherwise, when we rolled them down, we’d get burned – the air felt like heat blasting from an oven.

We have three window air conditioners here in our Victorian house. The rooms with the air conditioners are comfortable; the rooms without are blazingly hot and stuffy. Again, we might want to open windows in those rooms to let a breeze through, but that only makes you feel like you’re steeping in a steamy tub in a bathroom with the door closed. The A/Cs keep the humidity lower. I have lowered the storm windows, as in winter. Down, they effectively keep out much of the humidity.

Emma is coping. I keep the house as temperate for her (for me, too) as possible. She gets more confused in this heat and humidity, even if it is kept at an ebb indoors. But, she’s managing. She always loved Florida, Southwest Florida, where the weather is like this nearly year round.

I’m making a Levantine dinner tonight – baba ghanoush, tabouleh, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers with basil, garlic and green onions in olive oil and lemon juice; and purifying green drink – green beans, celery and parsley cooked until soft, pureed and then taken warm or cold. Methods of making tabouleh vary, but essentially it is made with bulgar, finely chopped parsley and mint, green onion, chopped tomatoes and lemon juice and olive oil. The Pioneer Woman (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/10/baba-ghanoush/), Ree Drummond, has a great and graphically depicted baba ghanoush recipe on her site. I make mine about the same, only this time, because it’s so hot, I microwaved my eggplant rather than roasting it – pricked it all around with fork tines first, then microwaved it for four to five minutes. I used two eggplants today, one purple, one white. As soon as they’re done cooking, I plunge mine into a bowl of ice water for a moment, then peel them easily.

I think now it’s time for me to go plunge my feet into a bowl of ice water.

–Samantha

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