I am working on a post about the trip to Big Bend National Park my husband and I took the last week in May, but first it’s time to celebrate Midsummer!
Midsummer is one of the holidays of the Wheel of the Year that can be a little tricky for me since it doesn’t have a secular American equivalent (like Samhain, Yule, and Ostara do). The big summer holiday of the United States is Independence Day on July 4. Sure, that’s a popular time for grilling, going swimming, and eating watermelon, but when I think of July 4, I think of fireworks and brass bands at the park. It’s more a celebration of American culture and mythology than the season of summer itself.
In celebration of the season of summer, a few years ago I started a tradition of having a barbecue every summer solstice. It was actually an offshoot of having a Yule get-together. Not much was happening in summer, so I decided it might be even easier to have a big celebration for Midsummer than Yule (when many people had already left town to visit family for Christmas). And when I say barbecue, I don’t mean grilling some hot dogs. I mean slow-roasting a large piece of meat or two over a wood fire for several hours until it falls apart. That is, Southern-style barbecue. For hundreds of years it’s been the perfect food for a large summer gathering. It’s a lot of work to fire up the barbecue pit unless you’re going to make a lot of meat, and so you need a lot of people to eat all that meat. Plus, outdoor cooking of any kind is popular this time of year because it doesn’t heat up the kitchen.
Being a Texan, I usually try to get beef brisket, but since I insist on only free-range, organic, grass-fed meat for my holiday feasts, sometimes I can’t find a brisket and have to settle for a pork shoulder, ribs, or in the case of this year, a couple of chickens.
Even though I’m sure it’s not what my ancestors did for Midsummer, there’s something satisfyingly primal about cooking meat over an outdoor fire.
I view Midsummer as a type of harvest festival. Most people these days, if they are growing anything, aren’t growing grain, they’re growing things like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green beans, sweet corn, and zucchini. Midsummer is peak harvest time for all those wonderful summer garden vegetables. It’s also Texas peach season, though this year the Fredricksburg peach harvest was damaged by a late frost. I usually make peach cobbler for dessert (with vanilla ice cream on top of course!), but this year I’m making bread pudding from some Challah bread left over from Easter (I baked three loaves!) that’s been in the freezer since then, so it’s nice and stale. Bread pudding with Bourbon sauce is a traditional Southern dessert too, and I bet it would also go well with some ice cream on top.
Yes, in case you haven’t noticed, holidays are all about food to me. I’ve been eating much healthier lately, taking advantage of all the fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of year, from both my own garden and grown by others. I’ve actually lost a few pounds, and could stand to lose a few more.
Though I suppose Midsummer isn’t only about food. The post on the Solitary Druid Fellowship blog about Midsummer as the Feast of Labor rings also true to me. Midsummer is also about work. As I said in my last post, the light half of the year is a time of action for me, not contemplation. I’m teaching summer classes at the community college, and summer classes are a LOT of work! The full-time professors go on vacation this time of year, so the college relies almost entirely on us adjuncts to teach the summer classes. It’s the same class for four hours a day, four days a week! When I was a student I never took summer classes because that condensed schedule seemed crazy for anything but the easiest classes, but now as a professor I do welcome the extra-large paychecks I get for teaching them.
So even though I’m not a farmer, summer is still a time of plenty, and a lot of extra work! I’m very blessed that I’m doing fulfilling, meaningful work though. So many people are stuck in jobs they hate, but I’m doing a job that I mostly enjoy, and one that I feel is very beneficial to the world. It almost makes up for the poverty-level wages and total lack of benefits that adjunct instructors receive!
OK, well, like I said, this is a time of action, not of sitting around typing on the computer. I’ve got a house to clean and a feast to prepare!