Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing, cuccu!
Tomorrow is the summer solstice. I don’t know about you, but I always think of Sarah, Plain and Tall when this time rolls around, as a literary reference for “Sumer Is Icumin In”: like Maria in Sound of Music, Sarah seals the love of her new family through teaching them this song.
Summer is a-comin’ in, Loudly sing, cuckoo!
We read the book in elementary school and I’ll always remember it as quietly unsettling compared to other children’s literature. It was something about the style, which was simple yet lyrical; or its setting out West and the routines of farm life; or the character Sarah who, as the title promised, was notably plai and tall and warm. Running through the book was a small yet live current of tension as the family adjusted to their replacement mother, their second wife: making daily, significance-laden adjustments that were at once unthinkable and yet instinctive for a young reader. It was a book that asked you to notice loneliness, grief, and love in things like missing the sea, smiling at sheep, transplanting one’s losses with echoes and translations. It puzzled me. I liked it.
While I will not sing for you, I do have a suggestion for a summer solstice salad, made with all the right things: tender butter lettuce, colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes, browned veggie sausage, creamy avocado, and a honey-mustard vinaigrette that pulls it all together. That’s it. Fast, easy, and gorgeous; made-to-order for one or for a crowd. It’s what I want to eat all summer long, with variations of course. In the spirit of Sarah, Plain and Tall, I’ll write it out in a simple, straightforward fashion. Thus:
Summer Solstice Salad
For the salad: No need for a bowl. Scatter lettuce on your plate, as much as you want. There should be many good choices for young, tender lettuces in the farmers’ market now; it makes a difference here. Now start layering: halved cherry tomatoes, cubes of avocado, slices of sausage browned in a pan (or just microwaved or baked in the oven!). When everything is just so, make your salad dressing.
For the dressing: Take a jar with a tight-fitting lid and put a dollop of honey mustard in, such as the delicious Maille brand, or combine mustard and honey. Add a splash of vinegar to liven things up if you’d like, then tiny cubes of garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add 2x the amount of olive oil to the base, screw on the lid, and shake it up! Taste. Is it delicious yet? If not, add more of any component until it’s to your liking.
Assemble. Admire the pretty colors and textures. Dig in.