Sharon Randall: Recipes for happiness? A memory and two great summer tastes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 5, 2015

Summer is slipping like beach sand through my fingers and I find myself thinking of summers in my childhood, thunderstorms and lightning bugs and sunsets that linger like the smile on the face of someone you love.

But most of all, the food.

A global marketplace makes it possible to eat most anything, anytime of year, especially if you live, as I do, in a city like Las Vegas, where world class restaurants demand fresh fish and meat and produce flown in daily in or out of season.

There’s nothing like food that’s grown locally and eaten fresh. Not even close. But at the grocery store — in a desert, of all places — I marvel at all that’s available from around the world, fresh or flash-frozen.

Last night I made vegetable ceviche (corn off the cob, cherry tomatoes, green onions, garlic, nectarines and cilantro all marinated in lime juice and salt) with scallops sauteed in shallots and a whole lot of butter.

Never mind the details. I just threw it all together, tasting as I went. It was good, if I do say so myself. My husband said so, too, but he says that anytime I cook.

And yet, as good and summer tasting as it was, it didn’t satisfy my hunger for summer.

Only two recipes do that for me. I ate them both for lunch today, well seasoned with memories of my grandmothers.

I’ll tell you how to prepare them in your own kitchen (or as I did once, in the back of a Volkswagen bus between two squirrely children while driving across country in a hailstorm.)

But first, let me tell you about the memories.

Growing up, my favorite place on Earth was always with either of my grandmothers.

My dad’s mother lived on a farm in the mountains, where she grew vegetables in a garden that was probably what God had in mind when he planted Eden.

I visited her often and did lots of things: Waded in the creek, read in the hay loft, chased cows in the pasture and got lost. I was good at getting lost.

But my favorite thing was to gather vegetables from her garden — one vegetable in particular. I’d pick the best I could find. Then I’d take it inside and she’d turn it into my all-time favorite summer lunch.

My mother’s mother lived in a small town where she knew every soul who passed her porch, where they’d been, what they bought and how much they paid for it. I visited her and did lots of things: Played checkers with my granddad, read in the porch swing, chased cousins and got stung by wasps. I was good at getting stung.

But my favorite thing was to pull a wagon up the road to Smith’s Grocery and bring back a treat my grandmother would call ahead to order just for me.

She’d send me off with a warning (“Don’t you dare get run over”) and stand by the road to watch me up and back. Then we’d take the treat inside and she’d turn it into my all-time favorite summer dessert.

OK, here are the recipes. First, “My Grandmama Case’s Tomato Sandwich”: Slather two slices of white bread with a lot of mayo. Slice a really good tomato, give it a few shakes of salt, stack it all up and try to eat it slowly.

And “My Grandmama Wilde’s Best Summer Dessert”: Cut a big ripe watermelon in half. Eat the first half with a spoon. Eat the second half if you can. Then wash yourself off with a hose.

Recipes don’t get much simpler. But there are two essential “secret” ingredients: The women who served them up just for me. Who listened as I talked and smiled as I ate and turned a simple taste into an unforgettable memory.

Those are my favorite tastes of summer. What are yours? Make them soon for yourself and someone you love. Add your own secret ingredients. And then send me the recipes.

But hurry. Before you know it, we’ll be hungry for a taste of fall.

Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at