In Watermelon Sugar


What I'm Reading

Somewhere between watermelon bubblegum and the watermelon gazpacho with chorizo sorbet that I savored in Paris last summer, there is a line of verse from Richard Brautigan on loop in my head: In watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar.

If you were a part of the 1960s counterculture or, like me, a teenager who, decades later, discovered Brautigan on your parents’ bookshelf, you might recognize this as the opening line from his 1968 novel, In Watermelon Sugar—the tale of love and betrayal on a commune where almost everything is made of…watermelon sugar. In Brautigan’s utopia, the prosaic fruit of American summers is weird and sublime, epic and poetic, and made into countless useful things in the Watermelon Works. There is watermelon oil to light the lamps, there are watermelon planks to build the shacks, and watermelon seed ink to write the book itself.

In my own little utopia, however, we have to work hard to find uses for all that watermelon. It’s a hefty fruit and the reality is that my son is allergic to it (yes, that stinks) and my husband, I’m embarrassed to admit, just doesn’t really like it (what would Brautigan think??). True, Team Watermelon (my six-year-old and I) can eat a lot of melon, but it seems like there’s always enough left over to take up half the fridge—or feed a commune.

So we get creative, though we’ve limited ourselves (so far) to edibles: watermelon frescos (Central American style with lime and salt), dried watermelon (delicious! like candy!), pickled watermelon rinds (the Lee Brothers recipe, hands down). This week, we moved on to sorbet. I recommend making a batch, picking up a copy of In Watermelon Sugar, and settling in for a sweet read. 

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