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In Italy and in Europe the month of August was always the ideal month for vacation. The major industries always shut down and the pace slowed down in the office and everyone thought about leaving behind worries to enjoy recreation and relaxation. This was how it was until recently. Now the winds of crisis in Europe are running fast and “carefree August vacation” seems far away. Since in even the worst situations you can find a positive side, this could be an opportunity to rediscover the joy of simple things, the joy that a simple slice of watermelon can provide while enjoying it with friends in the backyard on a hot August day.
Watermelon was the symbol of August in my family. In the fountain/artesian well that is still present in the front yard of our house, there was always a big watermelon “in the cooler.” In fact, the ideal temperature to enjoy a watermelon is not the temperature that a refrigerator produces, but the temperature that the water of an artesian well flows at, around 50-53.6 F.
At one time the watermelons that came to our house arrived in a pickup truck and they were gigantic. My grandfather always bought the largest (from ten pounds up) convinced that only the largest tasted the best. They had very thick skin and a red crisp pulp. I have not seen those kind of giant watermelons in many years, the new types of watermelon are getting smaller, almost a miniature versions of the old heirloom watermelons.
Around four in the afternoon, just before resuming work in the fields or the house, we found ourselves around the fountain and we ate watermelon. At that ritual there was always some neighbor, friend, or worker who knew the habits of our family well and always made sure to be there at that particular hour of the afternoon. It was an opportunity to chat and enjoy some refreshing watermelon. I loved this fruit so much and my uncle Luigi was always provoking me to see who could eat the most. Of course the size of my little stomach prevented me from winning, but the challenge made me feel equal to men. The memory of those moments is part of me and that’s why when I make an outdoor summer dinner it always ends with a big slice of watermelon.