How Watermelon Saved the Day

used under creative commons license - image by wallyg

image by wallyg

We love Washington, DC.

Since we’re lucky enough to have friends who live there as well as family in Baltimore, we visit often, usually on the summer school break. We’ve become accustomed to slogging through the nasty humid boiling hot weather, grateful for the fountains and air-conditioned free museums studded through the tourist districts.

This year we had reserved tickets for the Washington Monument, for July 7. I had misgivings about a 3 pm tour time, the hottest part of the day, but wanted to make sure we’d have plenty of time to get there after lunch. It turned out to be the hottest day of the hottest summer ever on record. Our intrepid group – me, my husband, our 8 year old son and our dear family friend and DC resident Rob  – slogged slowly across the Mall, achieved our target, viewed the city in its nasty haze from the blessedly air-conditioned top of the Monument, and all too soon were spit back out on to the griddle of DC.

Hot? We were the kind of hot that steals your cheer, melts your fun and evaporates your  good will. We managed to trudge to the National Gallery, but to everyone’s disappointment, arrived just before closing. The day was oozing into evening, with no relief from the heat, and four frayed souls wandered dispiritedly, dithering about what to do.

Then Rob spotted a favorite restaurant and gently herded us in. As we took our seats somewhat grumpily, he ordered watermelon agua fresca. Wow, did that sound good. I ordered one too, and so did the 8 year old, so we ended up, mercifully quickly, with a cold sweaty pitcher, the liquid’s bright pink flush bringing a spark of life to our eyes. We poured, we drank.

There was silence. The deep, appreciative silence of the truly grateful. It was broken by my son, who said “I feel so much better already – this is all I really needed.”

The magical restorative powers of agua fresca are well known throughout Mexico, where it is sold at stands pretty much everywhere. It can be made with cucumber, lime, peach, just about any summer fruit, but the deep summer bounty of watermelon just begs to be turned into this elixir of refreshment. It’s so easy to make, too.

I vowed, while sitting there imbibing sweet relief, that I would make some every chance I had, during that short season when watermelons  are everywhere, spilling from bins and truckbeds, offering their delicious, jewel-toned flesh for our delight.

used under creative commons license - image by feministjulie

image by feministjulie

Watermelon Agua Fresca

This recipe is super easy and forgiving. All you need is:

  • Equal parts watermelon (chunked, seeds removed) and water (or somewhat less water)
  • A squirt of lime juice
  • And if your melon is less than ridiculously sweet, a touch of sugar.

If you have a blender, whirl it up and then strain it through a sieve, pushing through as much pulp as you like. If you don’t have a blender, you can do it the old fashioned way, chopping and mashing with a fork.  Chill for an hour and swirl the settled fruit back into the liquid before serving.

Of course, you can make this fancier by adding black pepper or fruit masala, you can garnish with mint, or otherwise tart it up, and I’m not against that. But for the times when you’re so hot your eyeballs feel like poached eggs, just keep it simple and keep it coming.

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