I try not to think about how a California summer is different than a Pennsylvania one. I try not to think about how you can feel a thunderstorm in your pulse when you're driving through the Laurel Highlands, while in California you stagnate in your car, on a highway to run an errand or run away. I left those summers three years ago today, I left them before at bus stops and terminals. I never got used to hugging those summers goodbye, but I ache for a Mid-Atlantic heat that is as syrupy as it is drowsy.
The day before I moved to California, I remember doing three things vividly: crying in a parking lot, sharing a bottle of wine with my mom, and cutting my finger. All in the span of six hours, my memories of home are punctuated in those, they remain paperweights on my otherwise scattered recollection of the fickle definition of "home".
In the parking lot, I hugged my best friend, Carissa, goodbye. I wore a dark denim shirt that I had hand-dyed myself, I wore a baseball cap that belonged to my brother. We saw a psychic in her living room and we paid for it on her iPhone. She said a lot of lies and we laughed about it on the car ride to the discount clothing store. We ate macaroni and cheese and then said goodbye. I've only seen her four times since then. That day became a vector for our lives, we stretch away and are tethered by our memory to that last hug, that last embrace, and the overwhelming anxiety of choosing to go through with it all.
I cried the whole way home, regretting it all. We drove the same way home, but I took a different exit than her. I pulled over to catch my breath, clear my mind. When I got home, my mother had made an effort at normalcy, as much as I could see the heartbreak in her eyes. We watched "I Love Lucy" and played an old record at the same time, anything to drown out conversations we didn't really want to have. We sat in silence and both drank a cheap white wine. It felt good to be buzzed and it felt great to let go.
And at dinnertime, we had burgers. Cheap, simple. Utilitarian. I cut up the tomatoes and opened the screen door when it got too smoky in the kitchen. I cut my finger taking the rind off of a watermelon slice. It bled into a swirl in the drain. I wore the bandage until it fell off in a parking lot somewhere outside of Oceanside. Our third day in California. A new life. The last totem of home curled in on itself like a match that burned into a cinder.
These flavors remind me of that day and I made this granita last week in recognition of those moments. Those anchors, those competing vectors in the economy of my memories. I thought of the resolute promise that I wasn't going to cry on my way to see Carissa and I thought about how the wine was ice cold when I got home, the bottle sweating and my mother trying to make the best of the situation. I thought about it all as I dragged my fork over the baking sheet and even more when I took my first bite. This granita is good for those cloyingly humid days in the Appalachia, but I'll settle for remembering those moments (and missing them terribly) as I sit in traffic in Southern California. Anything to keep those memories alive.
Watermelon-Wine Granita with Orange Blossom Cream
- 1/4 sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- Half of medium-sized watermelon, rind removed and cut into rough chunks
- 1/3 cup Sauvignon Blanc
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
- 2 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- Mint for garnish
- Prepare your station by laying a 13" by 18" rimmed baking sheet out and making sure you have enough room in your freezer for it
- In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar and heat on medium-high. Stir a couple times and allow to boil until sugar is dissolved and a syrup forms. Set aside.
- In a blender, combine the watermelon, wine, and the simple syrup and blend until liquified.
- Pour through a metal sieve and discard solids.
- Pour watermelon mixture into baking sheet and put into freezer. Every half hour, drag a fork over mixture to fluff up the slushy mixture (pay extra attention to the edges, as they freeze into chunks). Reference image below. Continue this process for about 3 hours.
- As you wait for granita to freeze, whip the heavy cream on medium until soft peaks form. With the mixer still on, add the confectioner's sugar and increase speed to medium-high. Continue beating until peaks stiffen, add orange blossom water and beat for just a couple more seconds to incorporate.
- To assemble: Add granita to any vessel you'd like, then top with the whipped cream, sprinkle with pepper and garnish with mint.