By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
I’m telling you, there was never a truer saying than the one above. Billions of people worldwide have been experiencing heat wave upon heat wave. It’s especially bad for folks already living in hot climates. Can it get any hotter? You betcha! I personally did not take this latest California heat wave lightly. It hit me really hard, day after day. But it’s dry heat, and people say that’s not as hot. Sorry buddy, 110° is 110°. Yes, a lower humidity is the one little blessing for us here in an arid climate.
I’m going to come right out and say it: I am a first-world weenie when it comes to intense heat. There, get that out of the way. I would almost rather be too cold because you can always put on more layers. With heat, there’s only so much you can take off. Bare naked doesn’t even work. I feel like I lost a week of living. I laid around for days, total inertia, no cooking, no eating, no doing. I felt like a potato latke on a grill. I don’t know how outdoor workers manage to do their jobs in this kind of heat. God bless them.
Folks who have access to lakes, rivers, oceans or swimming pools are fortunate to have outdoor recreation. Two things have made my hot week worse than I could have expected. First, the aquatic center where I swim every day has been closed for repairs. In the middle of a hot spell? Who could have predicted.
Second, our off-the-grid solar power system has been engaged in a struggle with our air conditioner. What does that mean? The a/c won’t kick on without the generator and when it does, it shorts out the whole system. No electricity at all. Not being hooked up to city electric services is not for the faint of heart. I’m thrilled that we use solar power for everything, but clearly there are glitches. When we do get the air working, it’s still quite warm in our house.
I’ve been outside twice all week, first to go to Costco. From the looks of things, many folks don’t have air conditioning because there were crowds of people languishing in the warehouse for an inordinate amount of time. My other excursion was to sit in a hot barn at my niece’s ranch meditating with Thai monks (don’t ask, a story for another column!). I was so focused on my discomfort that the meditation felt like a marathon instead of a sprint. While I was at the ranch, the normal lively chicken coop was unusually quiet. My niece’s chickens roasted from the heat, literally. None of them made it.
I don’t think chickens adapt well to extreme heat. Dogs pant. Many animals are nocturnal in hot climates, such as desert rodents, foxes and mountain lions. They move about when it’s cooler during the night. Some are active at dawn and dusk, but lay in the shade during the hottest hours. Others, such as snakes and crocodiles, bask in the heat of the day. Humans, not so much. We try to go and do despite the heat. We sweat from our pores. We cover our heads. In many cultures, they cover their whole bodies with loose fitting clothes to keep the sun rays from baking their skin.
Humans have adapted anthropologically over millennia. Joel Allen, an American zoologist and Carl Bergmann, a German biologist, have concluded that larger, stouter peoples live in cold climates and smaller, lankier peoples live in hot climates. This is because the first group can retain body heat more easily and the second group has more surface area to sweat and cool off. An oversimplified explanation, but it gets the point across.
It’s commonly known that really spicy foods are eaten in very hot climates: India, Southeast Asia, Africa, and other countries along the equator. Hot foods make you sweat, which causes a person to cool off faster. It seems counter-intuitive to eat hot food when you’re already hot; I want to reach for ice cream, but it’s not an effective way to cool down.
In the spirit of spicy food, this week I’m offering Spicy Chinese Noodle Salad with Wilted Cabbage. The good news is that there is very little cooking so your kitchen will not heat up. Also, the dish keeps for several days. You can add protein to the noodles if you want the dish to be more substantial. I recommend cooked chicken, tofu or sautéed shrimp.
Tell us here at The Insider how you like it hot!
Spicy Chinese Noodle Salad with Wilted Cabbage
Yield: 8-10 servings
1 8-10 oz. package Chinese lo mein noodles
1/4 c. vegetable oil
8 c. finely shredded cabbage
6 oz. fresh mini corn on the cob (or 1 can, drained)
1 lg. carrot, peeled, diagonally cut into thin julienne
1 jalapeño, seeded, finely diced
2 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger
1-1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (1 tsp. is mildly spicy, more is spicy spicy!)
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/4 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
In a 4-quart pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander. Rinse with cold water. Drain very well. Place in a large bowl.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Add the cabbage, corn, carrot, jalapeño, ginger and red pepper flakes. Sauté until the cabbage is just wilted. Add the lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. Turn down to medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes more. Combine with the noodles.
Cool to room temperature. Blend in the fresh herbs and sesame seeds. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper, if needed. Serve at room temperature.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.