I have something in common with Mark Twain. He was a brilliant writer, an international raconteur and the greatest humorist of his time. OK, it’s none of those things: It’s our shared love of watermelon. Twain called watermelon the food of angels. I agree. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the sugary, watery treat. When I discovered there were seedless varieties, I was thrilled, but that ended my spitting career—which had just started to take off.
Here’s an excerpt of one of Twain’s tales, which includes a reference to his favorite snack: “When I was a boy, I spied a cart full of watermelons. I snitched one, ran into an alley and sunk my teeth into it. Then a strange feeling came over me. Without a moment’s hesitation, I walked back to the vendor’s cart and replaced that melon — and took a ripe one.”
Watermelon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. I don’t know who else is in this family, but I look forward to meeting them (or should I say “eating” them?). Watermelon is full of antioxidants that destroy free radicals, and while I have no idea what that means, it does sound like something I’d be in favor of.
In our basement refrigerator, I keep a stash of my guilty pleasures. Mary Ellen forbids huge jars of pickles and six packs of beer in our upstairs fridge. But most of the space in the downstairs Amana is often taken up by a split Black Diamond watermelon, each half on its own shelf. I frequently sneak downstairs and enjoy a mouthful of pure enjoyment. I’m not the neatest eater, so the juices often drip onto the basement floor, and the result looks like a murder scene after an unsuccessful evidence cleanup.
Why are watermelon-based desserts seldom on menus? There’s peach cobbler and cherries jubilee and apple pie. But a big crisp wedge of watermelon? Nope. Here’s an offer: After you dine at a restaurant, forego dessert and come to my house. I’ll give you your own spoon and lead you down the stairs to my treats. Enjoy. But don’t slip!
Watermelon is about 92 percent water. When Mary Ellen and I were dating, I took her on a picnic. I knew she wasn’t a beer drinker, so I brought some nice cold watermelon slices and encouraged her to try one. “Why, Dick Wolfsie,” she said, “I think you are trying to hydrate me!”
More trivia: Watermelon seeds were found strewn all across the floor in the tomb of Tutankhamun — proof that even a pharaoh couldn’t find good help 4,000 years ago.
The heaviest watermelon ever grown was 350 pounds. I’d have loved to have owned that giant marvel of delight, but to sort of quote Chief Brody in the movie “Jaws,” “Hey, Dick, you’re gonna need a bigger fridge.”