"What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance."
– Jane Austen
It's only a few hours after dawn, but the day is already starting to heat up. Pretty soon the sun will beat down on the galvanized roof, and the stifling heat will swell to an almost unbearable point, until the midday rains arrive to cool the house down.
We are smack in the middle of the rainy season, and on some days the oppressive heat and humidity makes it hard to think. Yes, I know that I shouldn't complain too much, because compared to other parts of the world, the heat here is a joke. Right now, killer heatwaves are sweeping across Europe and Asia, and scorching temperatures are adding to the general sense of discomfort being experienced by all. In Japan, temperatures this week were recorded in excess of 41 degrees Celsius, with several citizens unfortunately succumbing to the destructive effects of heat stroke. Even though the Caribbean has a reputation for being a very hot place, the truth is that our comfortable tropical temperatures are nothing in comparison to the extreme summer heat that is endured in other temperate parts of the world.
Exceedingly hot weather is something that humans have been learning to live with for a very long time and different cultures have devised different means of combating the heat. Of course many of these heat-busting techniques centre around food! Steaming hot foods may be great for colder times, but during times of sweltering heat, food that is cool is much better. We can see these attempts to stay cool in the humble lemonade stands on the corner of American suburban neighbourhoods, or in the bowls of cold goulash soups of Eastern Europe.
One surprising vegetable (well, it's technically a fruit but no need to be pedantic) that fits the bill for hot weather fare is the common cucumber. It may be a bit of an odd, and sometimes overlooked choice for a summer meal, but cucumbers may really be the perfect choice to cool us down on a muggy rainy season day. The Japanese have been doing it for quite some time, and we certainly don't have their same scorching summer temperatures to deal with. In many parts of Japan, it's not unusual to see chilled cucumbers on a stick being sold from wandering vendors at the height of the summer, and surprisingly, it's often a favourite snack for children!
It isn't without good reason that the humble cucumber is known as such as chill food, as they say that the inside temperature of a cucumber can be as much as 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than its outside. In this sense, cucumbers are almost like little natural self-regulating refrigerators. Their naturally cool temperatures is why we have the saying “as cool a cucumber”. The more you know, huh?
Another benefit of cucumbers is their versatility. While in their raw form, cucumbers are a bit bland, their blandness actually makes them the perfect vehicle for flavour in a myriad of ways. The flavour of the cucumber can be easily manipulated and transformed into pickles, chows, soups, ice creams, dips, infused waters, and even spicy salads. They are also pretty easy on the waistline too, and not only are they low in calories, but cucumbers are also chock full of nutrients. Cucumbers are also extremely cheap, which is always a good thing, especially during these times.
If you are feeling particularly wicked you can also set a cucumber behind an unsuspecting cat. The poor feline might just mistake it for a snake and jump out of its skin. This is real phenomenon by the way, and the internet is chock full of cats being terrified by the appearance of an unwelcome cucumber. I'm just kidding about this last suggestion of course. Enough cats have been tortured by these horrible cucumber apparitions, so please leave your poor cats alone. However, you can feel free to give this delicious cucumber salad recipe a try. It's cool, easy to make, delicious, and won't annoy your cat. Have a great week everyone.
Smashed Cucumber Salad
Here is a recipe for a refreshingly spicy cucumber salad, best served cold. Try it as a somewhat unusual side dish alongside a nice hamburger with fries.
2 tbs sesame oil
1 tsp red chili flakes
3 tbs Chinese chili garlic sauce
½ tsp msg/vetsin (optional)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp soy sauce
Cut cucumbers lengthways. Place the flat side of the knife on top of the cucumber and use your fist to forcefully press down on the knife which would “smash” the cucumber. This would allow it to more easily soak up the flavours of the seasonings.
Chop the “smashed” cucumber into rough pieces and place in a bowl.
Add all ingredients and mix well. Season with salt to taste.
Place in the refrigerator until cold and enjoy!