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Summer Food: Gin, Blossoms, Catching Crawdads
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Summer Food: Gin, Blossoms, Catching Crawdads


This month, we've been hearing stories about the foods that mean summer to you. And one recurring theme we've noticed is family.

Robert Pegel of Decatur, Georgia, wrote us about the taste of gin and tonic and how it takes him back to cocktail time at his Aunt Hilda's summer cottage in New England. He says the conversation is always lively. Aunt Hilda - true to her Vermont roots - speaks her mind. The rest of us don't need to be encouraged, although the gin and tonics may enhance the flow of conversation. The tinking of ice cubes in our glasses marks the rhythm of our talk.

Robert tells us Aunt Hilda died at the age of 93 some months ago, and the family held a memorial service for her this summer. Afterwards, they all went back to the cottage to enjoy the drink that defined the season for Aunt Hilda.

Erica Campanella of Hoboken, New Jersey warmed our hearts and tickled our taste buds with part of her family lore. She grew up in an area of North Providence, Rhode Island that was predominantly Italian. And a favorite summer delicacy there, squash blossoms - those little yellow flowers that open early in the morning and are highly perishable. Erica loves them breaded in flour and fried in olive oil. Squash blossoms - fresh for so short a time - can be really hard to find. She says if you can't grow your own, you should get on friendly terms with someone who does.

And then Erica Campanella told us this story, about a time back in the 1950s, when her grandfather went to a friend's mother's house - that's a friend's mother's house - in pursuit of those fleeting yellow blooms.

Ms. ERICA CAMPANELLA (Resident, Hoboken, New Jersey): He pulled into the driveway of the house and the door was answered by a little old Italian woman who didn't speak English. My grandfather asked her - in broken Italian - if she had any squash flowers. Turned off for a moment and said cerdo, sure.

She went into the house and brought my grandfather back a huge basketful. The next day, my grandfather thanked his friend for his mother's generosity. He mentioned that he didn't know she only spoke Italian. She speaks English, said the friend, surprised.

It speaks volumes about the Italian population in Rhode Island that my grandfather went to the wrong house but still managed to find a generous little Italian mother with squash flowers - just not the one he expected.

Ms. SARA HAMILTON (Resident, Flagstaff, Arizona): I haven't had my absolute favorite summer food since I was a kid - crawdads, caught fresh from South Twin Lake in Oregon.

NORRIS: That's Sarah Hamilton who now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Ms. HAMILTON: What was so great about those crawdads wasn't the taste -although they were pretty good. You know, the best part was catching the crawdads. As soon as it got dark, my sisters and I would grab our gear and head out. You needed a bucket, flashlights and a long pole with a net at the end.

The hunt began as we searched along the shore, you could shine your light through the clear water and see the crawdads sitting on the bottom. It was best to keep the light on the crawdad's tail. If you hit them in the face, they'd go taking off backwards and you'd lose them. So while one sister held the flashlight steady, the other would creep the net up from behind, slowly and then scoop. And hopefully, you caught a crawdad.

NORRIS: Sara Hamilton talking about hunting for crawdads with her sisters around South Twin Lake in Central Oregon. And you can hunt down other summer food stories and recipes too at our Web site

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