Family Style



With summer shortly coming to a close, friends and family cling to the shore to soak up the last rays and swap stories that only the season can provide. There isn’t much left to cross off on the lists we’ve made in May. Painted the mudroom, check. Gone to a baseball game, check. Spent hours at the beach, double check. In this, I find comfort. 

Indian spiced roast chicken



 Just last week, I invited some friends over for dinner around the kitchen table, to what seemed to be an ordinary gathering. Nothing too grand was awaiting my guests on their plates, simply grilled chicken, rice, and a summer salad. Yet, with music playing from the living room, the young adults at the table gave updates on their afternoons. One filled the air with his soccer aspirations, eyes lighting up when he told us that he got accepted to the high school varsity team. Another spoke about becoming a college freshman and the excitement that awaited her. 

Rather than reflecting on what had been accomplished this summer, they kept adding. They kept gazing towards the future. And every summer, that’s what the season affords us. It allows family and friends to be hopeful of the future with a childish arrogance and naiveté. Even the adults, myself included, shifted the conversation towards the Olympics, our hopes riding on a certain country or athlete.



Then Ping-Pong was broached.

Once Ping-Pong was brought up—That was the end of dinner. The kids cleared the dishes and dashed for the dining room table.  The boys scrambled for the portable set, and with that our own Olympics began. The light clicking from side to side was much less tension filled than the real competitions. However, I think that there was more teasing involved. Laughter filled the room whenever someone would completely miss. The ball bounced too quickly for the competitor to even see, leaving him stunned.  Although my favorite was when one of the adults would butt in by throwing another ball into play or needing suddenly grab a book during midgame that was on the other side of the table.

Standing there, watching the evening unfold, I couldn’t have been more pleased. At that moment, we were grounded by our mundane to-do lists in the backs of our minds, yes. However, we were able to enjoy the youthful attitude that summer affords us all; we were able to take full advantage of summer’s version of family style. A style bursting with life, opportunity, and daydreaming. And although Autumn in fast approaching, I embrace the next chapter, the future, my next to-do list. 



I find resolve in the idea that we will continue to make the seasons worthwhile. 







The Sound of Summer




Despite setting my alarm clock every evening, what wakes me isn't the buzzing of some mechanical gadget, but rather the vigilant woodpecker dedicated to his craft right outside my window. Each morning at around 5:30 he's ready to work on my copper rain gutters, which are obviously not up to his standards. Hearing his beak collide with the gutters, I pull back the covers. It's time to follow nature's example and start the day.


 From there, I head to Starbucks with my Portuguese Waterdog, Summer. He waits patiently next the newsstand while the neighbors say their hellos and hand him treats. (I swear that more people know that Muppet of a dog than me some days.) Once that iced skim latte hits my hand, I'm out the door. With Summer by my side, we walk to the shore. The sounds of the sails flapping in the wind combined with the overheard conversations of the sailing crew, known to the locals as the Blue Shirts, we dash for the water.



At first, with Summer living for the waves, we play a few rounds of fetch. He leaps over the waves as far as possible until he can no longer reach the false bottom that the seiche provides. That's when he really shines. Hearing him pant with each stroke he seems as unstoppable and as unchangeable as the season itself. Swimming past buoys and clashing with the water, he finally reaches that tennis ball and returns victoriously to the sand.




After a couple hours lying on the designated beach cloth, we trudge back. Exhausted from the sun, I let Summer recuperate at home while I set up the sprinklers and head for the market with one item in mind: chicken, otherwise known as a little piece of heaven. If I've learned anything from Martha Stewart or Art Smith is how to make a batch of buttermilk fried chicken. For me, it's the perfect end to a perfect summer day. To sit on the front porch with my dinner in hand, watching the lightning bugs slowly appear and hearing the crickets make their musical score of the evening I realize that I couldn't ask for anything more.  


Art Smith’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken

- 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 quarts cold water
- 4 quarts ice
- one 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon Franks Red Hot hot sauce
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups White Lilly self-rising flour
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Vegetable oil, for frying
In a pot, dissolve 1/2 cup of the salt in the water and ice. Submerge the chicken in the brine; refrigerate overnight.
Drain and rinse the chicken. Rinse out the pot. Add the buttermilk and hot sauce submerge the chicken in the buttermilk and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Remove chicken from the buttermilk. Place the eggs and hot sauce in a mixing bowl and add the chicken allowing it to be lightly coated with the egg mixture. Remove from the egg mixture.
In a shallow bowl, mix the flour, thyme leaves, garlic powder, Old Bay, cayenne, black pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Shake the excess marinade off the chicken, then dredge in the flour. Dip the chicken back into the buttermilk and coat again in the flour.
Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 375°. Fry the chicken in batches until golden and cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve.