It is hot—mid to high 90s every day by 4 in the afternoon. In some parts of the country, this is normal, but in the Willamette Valley, it is not. The only other heat spells like this we have had have been tied to the three times I’ve rented power sanders to refinish floors, and they only lasted a few days (until I returned the sander, each time). It is, too be fair, a dry heat, but still, we lack strategies to deal with heat.
- Dress appropriately. I am always amazed by people who deny the weather, wearing nylons and suit jackets on hot days, flip-flops through the snow, and sweatshirts in the rain. As a well-prepared hiker, I have mastered the art of the layer and dress for the weather. When we are in the South, the Land of Frigid Air Conditioning, this becomes a bit of a problem, but as long as I am here, it makes a huge difference. Loose shorts and cotton tank tops are my preferred style when the temperature rises.
- Open, then shut, the doors and windows. When we are home, we play games with the front door and the side windows. In the early morning, we open the house up wide. When it is hotter outside than in, we close down the house, especially in the west-facing front. We draw the curtains and shut up the windows and doors during the hottest part of the day. When the temperature flips again, we open everything back up. We also have a fan that can bring air up from the basement, which is always cooler than the air outside.
- Sleep outside. We have rediscovered this lovely lifestyle this summer. On the first hot night, we hauled the air mattress out, made the bed with several layers of light blankets, hung up a sheet to block the bed from the eyes on the back alley, and settled in. By ten-thirty, the air was cool enough for one blanket; by morning, we had several. Our bodies start the day cooler and that lasts for several hours. We are much better rested than we would be tossing around inside. The cats love it, too.
- Timing is everything. Because we are outside, we wake up around six thirty. I like to start on the physical projects early in the day, baking bread, canning pickles, cleaning house, digging up plants, well before the heat rises. Then, when the day is too warm for labor, I can take to the hammock with a book or do some work on-line. In the evening, I complete tasks. Everyone in the back yard lays low by three thirty. The cats and rabbit sprawl on the ground, pressing their tummies into the cool earth. The chickens perch in the shade and nap. Even the bees are quiet, fanning the entrance to the hive.
- Just deal. In 1988, I was a baker during a very hot summer. Looking back at the records, the day time temperature did not drop below ninety for six weeks. Add East Coast humidity to the picture, and it was muggy. We had all sorts of cooling tricks as we worked in front of the huge black ovens. We froze wet towels and wrapped them around our necks. We had cooling mint and orange blossom sprays in the refrigerator. We drank lots of water and mixed all sorts of juices with seltzer on ice. We pinned our hair up off of our necks and occasionally thrust our heads under the cooling spray of the sink. Occasionally, you would find someone sitting in the walk in for a minute. But, mostly, we worked. And we nodded patiently when a customer leaned over the counter to ask “Hot enough for you?” Yeah, it was hot, but people still have to eat, so we kept on. And we had a rule—no complaining.
Macaroni Salad, Aunty Marilyn’s style
So, this was my first discovery that not everyone made their macaroni salad the same way. I went to my first “adult” potluck while I was in college. It was late May, and warm, so I made this salad. When we arrived, three other people had also made macaroni salad and all three were different. We were all astounded and spent the rest of the dinner comparing notes. I still think mine is the best.
Cook a box of elbow macaroni. Don’t get the fancy imported stuff, this is not that kind of dish.
While the macaroni cooks, chop up a medium sized red onion. Strive for a fine chop. When you have finished, open a small jar of sweet gerkin pickles and chop them the same size. Toss in a big bowl, along with about 2/3 of the pickle juice. Add a can of tuna fish.
Drain the macaroni and add to the bowl. Stir it all up. Then take out the mayonnaise jar and toss in a good sized glop. Stir. Consider. Add some celery seed if you are feeling fancy. Add some more mayo. Remember, this is a mid-sixties dish. This is not health food. Stir.
Refrigerate. It really is best made a day ahead. Eat at a cook-out with charred hamburgers. Eat the remains for breakfast the next day.