By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
Geez. We’re having dog-day afternoons in June and it’s barely summer, with the summer solstice arriving on Tuesday (June 21). That is officially the first day of summer in the U.S. and the longest day and shortest night of the year. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that summer solstice marks “the two moments during the year when the path of the Sun in the sky is farthest north in the Northern Hemisphere (June 20 or 21) or farthest south in the Southern Hemisphere (December 21 or 22).”
I’ve always been fascinated with astronomy and studying about our solar system in particular. I was fortunate to attend a high school where a brand-new planetarium was built while I was a student. That was my favorite class. I remember lying back in those big cushy chairs, lights out, as the whole ceiling was lit up with stars. It made learning easier having an experience like that instead of reading about it in books. I enjoyed it so much that I later took astronomy at the University of Michigan.
Just a side note: getting to the fourth-floor planetarium was challenging because bats would hang upside down in the stairwell. If you covered your head with a hood, it was no problem.
Because of my interest in experiential learning and my love for travel, my sister Marcia and I decided in 2015 to see the summer solstice up close and personal. We opened a map and selected the northernmost city in the world, Tromso, Norway, 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle. I highly recommend this trip because it was, well, “trippy.” The light at night was so eerie, unlike anything I have known. The sun NEVER set; it just sat on the horizon like a bouncing ball. We walked on the streets at 3:00 a.m. and it was daylight, not a soul around, like in the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. Even the birds were confused.
As if this trip weren’t enough, I needed more summer solstice in the Arctic. In 2017, I took my daughter Hanna to Iceland during June. That country isn’t as far north as Norway, but the nights there were still plenty weird. There was no delineation between day and night. We visited a geyser at 10:00 p.m. and then went out for dinner at 11:30 p.m. It was still light out! People hiked, swam and biked during the night. We didn’t sleep for five days.
On the eve of summer solstice 2022, we are witnessing epic high temperatures all over the world. There is no denying it, the climate has changed and not in a good way. We are seeing extreme heat, extreme rain with flooding, extreme drought, extreme wind and fire. One can’t avoid it anywhere. Don’t get me started on a tirade about this terrible situation. We are all at the mercy of altered climate, some suffering more than others.
I am grateful that many of us have access to air-conditioning and clean water to drink. Despite the awful heat, we must press on living our lives, working, doing chores, and feeding ourselves and our families. Now is not the time to crank up the ovens and burners. In my house, the kitchen is an integral part of the dining and living space. When I even have one burner on, it ups the temperature inside. My advice: Let’s “cook” dishes that don’t require any heating.
Today’s offering is a riff on gazpacho: mangospacho, made with, you guessed it, mangos and mango nectar. Gazpacho originated in Andalusia, Spain centuries ago. The word gazpacho had its origin in the Arabic word for soaked bread.
Gazpacho in its truest form is made of tomatoes, peppers, olive oil, herbs and bread crumbs, which are used as a binder. I personally never use bread crumbs, but there are hundreds of variations with no one correct recipe. Have fun playing with the ingredients to create a concoction of your liking!
Let us know here at The Insider what you do to cool off during this year’s summer solstice. And don’t forget to serve cold and refreshing mangospacho!
Yield: 8-10 servings
2 large firm-ripe mangos, peeled and cut into 1/4” dice
1 English cucumbers, cut into 1/4“ dice
3 scallions, sliced very thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds discarded, minced
Kernels from 1 ear of corn (should measure @ 1 cup)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 c. mango nectar
1 c. cold water
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/8 c. fresh lemon juice
1/8 c. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl. Adjust the seasoning. Chill for at least 1 hour.
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.