Susan Zelouf shares memories of ambrosial summer days…
In China and Japan, stories are told about ancient broths, perpetual soups endlessly topped up, some purportedly for more than a century, in which meaty bones are tossed together with vegetable scraps and water and simmered for days, weeks, months and even years. If “feeding the pot” results in an ambrosial reduction in which every spoonful is a haiku, then isn’t it possible there exists a substance, a distillation perfumed with possibility and shimmering with light, evocative of a singular summer? In The Street of Crocodiles, Polish Jew Bruno Schultz wrote of August in Galicia: “Dizzy with light, we dipped into that enormous book of holidays, its pages blazing with sunshine and scented with the sweet melting pulp of golden pears.”
The summers of my childhood, free range and latchkey, kick off in the backyard of a house in a struggling steel town in Western Pennsylvania: we hunt grasshoppers and fireflies, trapping them in Mason jars. Our Iraqi father, an engineer, designer of roads and bridges, smashes up the little plastic pool our mother had bought us, against his wishes. I disappear on my trusty Schwinn, biking to new neighbourhoods, abandoned factories, the dump. I find a praying mantis; determined to catch her in the act of devouring her mate, I check back daily. Lying in the grass, watching dark clouds cotton up the sky, I swallow a bee; sticky and sweet, it tastes of blackberries.
Mid-seventies Long Island summers taste of baby oil laced with iodine, the factor 0 tanning lotion concocted by teenage girls living near Sunken Meadow beach, craving the attention of beefy lifeguards. Jump cut to the 1980s: on hot and humid New York City streets, the smell of sweat and piss and garbage catches every throat. Dissolve to the Italian Adriatic Coast, 1985: olive oil, balsamic, Negronis. Soapy, three-showers-a-day clean. Sex.
August, 1990. Walking along the Northern Ireland coast, we pass picnicking families, teenagers making out and an older couple holding hands as they watch cargo ships inch across the horizon. We buy lemontops – white whippy ice cream topped with dayglo squeezes of tangy slush. Michael asks me to marry him in his Belfast accent that somehow makes me, a New Yorker, forget the bomb scares and controlled explosions that had punctuated my parents’ bad marriage. I guess we’d both lived through the Troubles. Ensuring my next mouthful is as sweet as it is tart, I tell him yes.
Post-Covid, some of the Irish summer abroad, in Puglia, Tuscany, Ibiza, Malta, Marbella, Mallorca, posting enviable Insta-pics. Those left behind stay schtum, smug in the certainty they’ve bagged the better deal: long, lazy days in the 32 counties, none of which boast names ending in an “a”.
The young and beautiful team behind Amsterdam-based www.microdose-pro.com cites the legal-in-the-EU practice of taking fractional amounts of psilocybin (in the form of truffles farmed in the Netherlands) to “upgrade productivity, creativity and mood”. Psychedelic-assisted therapy has taken off as a promising treatment for depression, prompting both the curious and the desperate to give it a go. Can a mushroom fragment contain multitudes, as potent as Proust’s madeleine? In a bid to hold onto summer, as days inevitably grow shorter, consider microdosing…with lemontops, or whatever you’re having yourself. @susanzelouf
This month …
1. I’M DIGGING life with a Kent & Stowe stainless hand trowel. www.newlands.ie.
2. I’M HITTING the road with help from the knowledgeable nomads at Vanhalla Camper Heaven. www.vanhalla.ie.
3. I’M CYCLING in style on a retro e-bike, handmade in Belgium by Achielle. www.rothar.ie.
4. I’M FINDING my way home guided by poet and wildlife biologist J Drew Lanham @wildandincolor.
5. I’M DRAPING my beauty bone in Scribble & Stone’s Paperclip Duo Necklace from a selection at Curated by Design Centre, Kildare Village.
6. I’M NAILING it in Pink Sakura, a Dior Vernis Pure Glow polish available at Brown Thomas.
7. I’M CHANNELLING Bardot in an off-the-shoulder Pralù long cardigan at www.jacquemus.com.
8. I’M CATCHING rays in Zinedine sun glasses in melted butter by Swedish brand Sun Buddies, in stock at Envoy of Belfast.
9. I’M GOING Gauguin, oiling my hair the Tahitian way with heady Monoi Tiare.
10. I’M THROWING shade in a white cotton terrycloth bucket hat. www.prada.com.
11. I’M BIRDING for bronze with Fiona Smith’s “Group of Egrets”, at Solomon Fine Art, Balfe Street, Dublin 2.
12. I’M GRILLING it on my Weber Traveler, a foldable gas barbecue that makes picnics into parties. Shop the range at Newlands Home & Garden Centre, Dublin 22.
13. I’M EXPLORING parts unknown in Sylt padded vanilla Birkies. www.birkenstock.com.