Friday, July 23, 2010

Watermelon For Breakfast

I read the other day that the northeastern part of the United States has had over 12 days of 90 plus degree days so far this month and that July is officially the hottest month on record. But not only that. July is now the hottest month on record around the world. Even more startling, 2010 is now the hottest year on record since the 1880s when meteorologists began keeping records of temperatures around the world. It's been hot in Europe where we expect heat in the south of France, southern Spain and Italy, but not in the UK or mainland Europe. Most of Europe is forecast to be warmer into October and even Scandinavia is preparing for a much warmer fall. If you live here, I don't need to tell you how hot it has been in North America. Day after day of 85 degrees in the morning with 80 percent humidity and very little relief in the way of rain or breezes flowing down from Canada have made life in the northeast, in particular, a little uncomfortable for those of us who have been accustomed to much cooler temperatures. Although I recognize that very hot years occur with regular frequency and temperature anomalies are part of the meteorological landscape, the data is pretty clear that we have moved into new, hotter territory. Coping with these temperatures can be challenging for everyone and I think that now, maybe more than ever, we all need to come up with a low to no energy plan for staying cool when it's beastly hot outside.
There are literally tomes of information on the web on how to keep yourself cool without air conditioners or even fans and I don't need or want to reiterate any of the mechanical methods for cooling your personal space. I have another tactic that I want to share: cool the inner space. Perhaps you've heard the adage; warm the person, not the room in reference to efficient space heating? Apply the same principle when you need to cool down.
During these sultry days of July when I wake with grainy eyes and sore muscles from wrestling the pillows all night long, watermelon for breakfast is like a balm. There is nothing quite like a slurpy, drippy, sweet melon to make you feel like another 90 degree day is doable, maybe even enjoyable as long as you don't have to do anything. If you can find a cool, shady spot outside, under a tree, take a book, a glass of something cool and a pile of delectable pink smiles in a bowl and you might just survive the heat and humidity of this wretchedly hot month. But even if you can't find a shady spot outside and you are sweating it inside somewhere, drinking cold drinks, and eating cold foods will lower your internal combustion engine's temperature from Overheating! to Tolerable. You can hang out on your sofa, easy chair or bed eating watermelon and drinking ice water or lemonade and the effects are the same as if you were outside on a chaise lounge. Other cooling foods include red and green grapes, cucumber salad and any citrus-ade. I stay away from any foods that require a lot of energy to digest; digestion creates heat in the body and makes you feel warmer. And more sluggish, if that's possible in this heat!
There is a scene in the film Like Water For Chocolate where the family, who is living in pre-industrial Mexico, soak their bed sheets in cold well water and hang them outside, creating a sleeping area with the sheets for walls. They eat watermelon that has been stored in the well, pink juice dripping down their chins. They bathe in cool water before sleep and as they sleep amongst their wet sheets, the cooling night air flowing over sheet and body alike, they rest, their inner space cooled by watermelon. We in the northeast can take a lesson from those who have always lived with this kind of heat and humidity; cool the inner space. Rest during the middle of the day. Sleep outside. Eat watermelon for breakfast.

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