If you’ve got some tomatoes and watermelon hanging out in the fridge, use them here. This salad is really perfect for the time of year. The lovely colors are reminiscent of a Summertime fruit salad, but looks toward cooler weather with the addition of couscous making it a bit more hearty. It’s great for reunions and picnics too. You can keep the individual components separate, and combine everything quickly when you get to your destination.
I promise I will get to the recipe, but first I want to give you guys a snippet of our life and grandparents in Appalachia.
Born from the mountains and hollers of Southwest Virginia and West Virginia, we are a product of Appalachia. For a region rife with lore of feuding and moonshine, Appalachia painted quite the different picture on two childhood canvases. As I sit and write, tears fight to escape down my cheek when recollecting fond memories of schoolday years. For many outside the mountain range, a chimera of poverty floods their soundness. An upbringing full of riches leaves a stark contrast in the minds of two Appalachian kids.
Our grandparents are the root of who we are today. Radiance and fortune occupy Warren’s stories of growing up in West Virginia. To the unsuspecting ear, one might believe Mamaw Estep, Grandma Rhodes, and Grandpa Rhodes were his own myth. From BB Gun sagas to getting lost in the mountains until Mamaw called him in for dinner, his recounts of stories seem to surely be fictitious. Trips to the town video store with Grandma and Grandpa to pick out his favorite rental seem otherworldly. A place in time where he wants to watch it happen all again, and then rewind for a second showing. Where swinging with Mamaw in her front porch swing took him to the moon and back. When we sit on our own front porch swing, I want to get up and give her the seat beside him she deserves. Listening to him talk, I’m convinced they were the Magellans of the Mountains, and together they circumnavigated the earth.
Close in proximity and principle, my life growing up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia was not unlike Warren’s. Mamaw and Papaw Buckles lived about 2 hours away, but drive time was fleeting for them. Papaw, along with his garden, goats, and chickens, taught me responsibility and sustainability. He maneuvered me and Mamaw across the country to California when I was 8 years old. Experiencing my first earthquake now seems subsidiary to sleeping on Mamaw’s arm as we blew across the desert to the West Coast. I may have been on Summer break, but in California in 1989, Mamaw taught me ethnic and social scrupules. Last year, 16 years later, she gently taught me her final lesson.
Mamaw and Papaw Leonard lived on Little Prater, and here I would get off the bus every day after school. I climbed under their fence, and like clockwork, Mamaw would pop up in the kitchen window, Papaw by the tree swing ready to give me a spin. Mamaw taught me a properly cleaned mirror meant a pool party with friends; a streak-free mirror meant sledding and hot chocolate. Chores, once so daunting, leave me longing for one more task. At nightfall, I would stretch out on my stomach across Papaw’s lap as we watched Hee-Haw. As the minutes of Hee-Haw ticked by, so did the drawings he would sketch out on my back with his finger. From my first time behind the wheel to my first ridgeline hike, Papaw’s faith in me never waned.
During the Summer, Papaw would line up his prized tomatoes from the morning’s harvest on the porch banister. Like rubies for me to meticulously inspect, I anxiously awaited to see what jewels he would pluck from his basket. His brimming banister of tomatoes weighs heavily on my mind when I see Warren bringing tomatoes from our garden onto the porch.
All tomatoes went to use in their house. Whether added to the canning lineup, in a chopped salad, or on an open faced sandwich, they respected each tomato plant. Now that we are down to the end of the tomato season, I’m sure we could all use a little recipe inspiration. This week, we have a salad for you guys that combines cool tomatoes and watermelon, herbed couscous, and a Serrano-Mint Vinaigrette. Using fresh and simple ingredients, this salad comes together quickly, and is great for leftovers the next day.