At this very moment, I am engaged in perhaps the only activity I can stand in my apartment this week: Reclining on my bed directly in front of my fan, fresh out of a cold shower, and clad in a giant t-shirt and a pair of baggy boxer shorts endeavoring to have as little fabric-skin contact as possible.
Weather-wise, this has been a rough week in New England. Everyday temperatures top-out in the high eighties and low nineties with humidity of 90%. Yup, gross. It’s the kind of weather where simply sitting still causes tiny beads of sweat rise on your upper lip or run down the small of your back, and where your skin is in a constant and enduring state of stickiness.
I feel like I am in the movie Groundhog Day. Every morning, I wake up to the same grim forecast, hot, humid, mostly sunny, with a chance of (severe) thunderstorm. Each day all of nature just seems to sit—poised in its own stagnant stillness—for a storm to come. But it never does.
Of course, my apartment has no air conditioning, and I am too broke for a window unit. All I’ve got is a big box fan that is, legitimately, as old as I am. I remember Maggy and I lying in bed in much the same way twenty years ago with this exact fan, tossing our sheets up into the air and counting how many seconds until it they floated down to skim our skin. Repeating that silly cooling process until we fell asleep (or Dad came to the rescue with cold washcloths for our foreheads.)
In the cool, controlled environment of my parent’s current house, the idea of cooking in hot weather never fazed me. But now, oh now, I am officially FAZED. Every time I plan dinner I try to calculate how hot it’s going to be. But it’s so humid and disgusting that even dressing a salad is unpleasant. So at this point I’ve thrown caution to the (nonexistent) wind, and am just cooking whatever I feel like. Heat be damned.
Tonight I made Bolognese, last week I made chicken chili, and a long-simmering collard green, sweet potato, and chickpea curry. I baked granola bars, and two batches of peanut butter cookies, and four loaves of french bread.
But my coup de grace was a four-burner scorcher. In the winter, or in the AC, this relatively quick dinner would be no problem. But working rapidly over four different things with one puny fan had me calling for back up. It was so good, though, I can’t wait to make it again—perhaps on a slightly less humid day.
On one burner I had grits bubbling away, to which I added cheddar and pepper jack cheese. On another burner, I had Rainbow Chard sautéing with onions and garlic. On another I had black beans warming with a little cumin. And finally, I had some ground beef sautéing with garlic, curry powder, cumin, and cayenne.
I plated it grits first, topped with chard, then meat, then beans, and crowned my creation with a dollop of plain yogurt, a few spoonfuls of salsa, and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.
Sure, by the time dinner was eaten and the dishes were done, I was ready for my cold shower, baggy t-shirt, fan-worship routine. But hey, at least I had a good meal.
You’re right, Sharon. For the last twelve years we’ve had air conditioning, but for the first twenty we didn’t, so I KNOW what it’s like to cook in the heat.
In fact one of my early vivid food memories is trying to make from-scratch puff pastry in a hot July apartment.
My advice these next few weeks is to take a cue from the equatorial countries and cook hot and spicy. Not only does it taste good, but the heat makes you sweat which, in combination with that ancient fan of yours, will eventually cool you right down. That, and a quick shower right before bed.
Oh you poor thing! Here in Seattle we are having a heat wave (for us) but without the extreme humidity! My favorite beat-the-heat cooking tip is to use all my counter-top appliances that don’t heat up the house. Baking potatoes in the crockpot, steaming corn-on-the-cob in my electric skillet, heating taco soup (1 lb taco meat cooked in electric skillet with 1 can each of kidney beans, black beans, diced tomatoes, corn and tomatoe sauce, seasoned with chili powder & cumin and served with fritos! YUM! A cheap easy dinner) in the crock. My all time favorite trick is to use my roaster oven to bake pizzas and all things I’d put in my oven! Good luck and I hope it cools down for you.
Bravo for giving yourself a good meal. Here in the midwest we live in soup instead of air also.
My mother (now 76) used to cook EVERYTHING on her Charm-glo grill out on the patio. We even learned how to cobbler in a dutch over an open flame!
God Bless air-conditioning! I hope you have some soon and the cold water holds out!
I’ll dig out my “grilled cheese grits” recipe for you.
I am also in Seattle and my house has been SO hot lately. I have been picking up our dinners from the amazing authentic little taco place by our house. It always hits the spot but I miss cooking! I have been on summer break from culinary school and was embracing finally having the time to cook! Now that it is so hot I have been left without the desire 1 week before school starts up again.
It’s hot in Chicago too. Last night as I was leaving work at 7pm it was 95 degrees. I don’t want to know what it had been during the heat of the day!