The heat. The humidity. Driving us off the front porch at 7:15 p.m. as the sun peeks over the cabin roof, the high temperatures here in East Tennessee seem perpetual. Like marionettes, the sun beckons us to ditch standing over a stove as much as possible. Knowing the glory of fall and winter will have us warming up the kitchen with pots of chili, we easily give in to the ebb of the oven.
During a quick visit with my Aunt and Uncle, they brought out a peculiar looking maroon beverage from the refrigerator, and poured us up two glasses. Juiced fresh that morning, we washed down tomato, beet leaf, and basil juice. Having a long drive ahead of us that day, and knowing my bladder capabilities, I resisted the urge to accept another glass when they offered. Leaving their place that morning, I knew I had to make some of my own.
My Aunt and Uncle, they juice. Warren and I, we do not juice. We should juice, and we want to juice, but we don’t. Not owning a juicer, I realized I would have to adapt my Aunt Jackie’s juice concoction for our kitchen. I modified her recipe to make gazpacho and popsicles for us this week. Both are fitting for the lingering heat and upcoming holiday, so I knew I had to share it with you.
Aunts and Uncles are sometimes like a bonus set of parents, aren’t they? We were both privileged with an extraordinary family growing up, each hand reaching out as if we were their own child. My Aunt Jackie and Uncle Steve, and Warren’s Great Uncle John and Great Aunt Colleen (Boo Boo) were no exception to the conglomerate of individuals who a hand in raising us.
“Tell me what you see.”. A game played from a house window in Belle, WV, took the mind of a child from a living room to a barge on the river. With barge activity and mountain-range happenings peering back at him through binoculars, Warren learned from Uncle John that he didn’t have to leave the house to be a rambling man. Push pins on a map marked John and Boo Boo’s worldly explorations, each accompanied by a captivating trinket on display. From push pin to push pin, Boo Boo’s recollection of past adventures gave Warren the opportunity to visit places far away from the mountains of WV. A kid with outdoor fascination running rampant through his blood, Warren learned the essence of soil could easily be found within four walls. Today, their possessions take their place around our house. Shawls, handkerchiefs, and the like can be found occupying various book shelves and tables. Like John and Boo Boo’s trinkets, they are Warren’s accompanying trinkets to his memories of them.
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so we’re told. In my case, each picture of me with Aunt Jackie and Uncle Steve holds an encyclopedia worth of history. When I look back at pictures of us together, 3-D glasses aren’t needed to carry me back to each scene with them. From the mountains to city, my travels with them opened my eyes to places unforeseen. Trips to the Biltmore and New York City were enlightening, but the wisdom they taught me along the way was far more eternal. An elixir to my teenage angst, they taught me to have unwavering credence in 13 year old me. As I look 35 years in the eye, they remind me to stay true to my own convictions. As we explored all the east coast had to offer, practical jokes ensured we were forever laughing. Back then, each joke was met with grins, merriment, and howling chuckles. Unbeknownst to them, their practical jokes allowed me to reap a backbone of modesty and humbleness.
I asked them to recall their favorite occasions of us, and here is what they had to say: “Making us draw pictures on your back and ALWAYS having to erase before starting over, Santa Claus and the Christmas kitten ( the true believe “gleam” in your eyes), buying you your first bike and you thinking you were going to have to pay for it (we finally realized that was why you weren’t picking a bike), when we were traveling you always in the middle holding our hands, taking you Christmas shopping and you falling asleep with Steve carrying you for hours, and last you not knowing which way is up on an elevator, OH WHAT GOOD MEMORIES ( happy tears)!”.
Gazpacho and popsicles! It’s all chilled, and will cool you down during these last few days of summer. Because it’s a chilled soup, it’s suitable to pack for any Labor Day festivities. Warren isn’t the biggest fan of chilled soup, so he heats his up and so can you. Aunt Jackie’s recipe begins with a simple base of tomatoes, beet leaves, and basil. With dash of this, a dash of that, and my addition of garlic, her juice transformed into a lovely and colorful gazpacho. By using raw ingredients, you get the added bonus of more nutrients.
Be sure to save your leftovers for some savory popsicles. If you don’t have molds, you can always use popsicle sticks and sample-size paper cups. We use something similar to these, but plan on purchasing thesebeauties before making our next round of popsicles.