Summer and the foods that accompany it are as varied as… um… well, as the places where summer occurs. I know, that was lame, but it really is true. I could come up with a zillion ideas for summer food and the many different locations where I’ve enjoyed them: corn on the cob, watermelon, fried chicken, peaches, burgers, dogs and strawberry ice cream, and I have thought on all of these items individually, but I didn’t find that little spark I needed to bring it all together. Then my weird little brain focused on one little memory that made a unified theory of summer food possible – worms.

We spent of lot of our summer days weeding the garden and harvesting worms. Worms are gross, slimy and amazing multiple celled creatures that turn the stuff that’s in the dirt into the soil that then, in turn, grows the stuff that ends up in the dirt. I’m not doing very well at this. A better writer may say:

“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.” – Hamlet

In the end, worms make great bait for perch, sunfish and bluegills.

My dad worked shift work for awhile, which often gave us the unusual treat of having him home during prime fishing time. You know that question, “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?”  Often my dad would answer, “Load up the truck, we’re going fishin’!”  You’ve never seen 5 kids move their butts so fast than when they’re told they’re going to the lake.

One of my family’s favorite things to do in those early summer evenings was to head out to the lake and fish for our supper. Not only was this superb family time and an inexpensive way to feed a horde of seven, but memories were also made and life’s lessons were learned along the way.

Once we’d parked, five completely spazzed out kids fell out of the truck with poles, bobbers a tackle box and that ubiquitous can of worms. My folks had two rules:  1) don’t get in the water (you’ll scare the fish), and 2) if anyone asks, you’re under the age of 12.

Just in case you are not familiar with this species we sought, they weigh in at a max of about 12 – 16 ounces with a dining yield between two and five people; therefore, one meal for a family of seven required a “mess of fish.” 

Trust me, with suns, perch, and bluegill the mess is real, but so completely worth it for the taste and the time with loved ones.

If you hadn’t completed casting 101 in the back yard with the blue bucket, you could cop a squat on the dock, release the tension and wait. Matriculated casters spread themselves out evenly along the wooden dock, and we’d toss that line out, wriggling worm and all, and reel them in. 

If my memory serves me well, once caught it was released from the hook, gutted and cleaned right there and tossed in the cooler. Although, I never was a big fan of fabricating small fish, I did have my own pocket knife, and I’d get right down there with my brothers. 

Once home, my mom would dredge them in flour, salt & pepper and fry them in oil. Maybe we had a few ears of corn or some fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and onion and a stack of soft, white bread to wash those pesky little bones down.

I’ve fished a bit since I was a youth but never as often nor with as much complete abandon and joy as was experienced in those soft summer evenings of my childhood. That’s what summer food should bring to mind however you may recall it:  family, friends, ease, enjoyment and peace. That’s what summer is all about, after all.

 Live Well, Eat Well