Ed Ackerman, optimist: Those crazy days of summer are fleeting

By Ed Ackerman

July 12, 2014

July 13. Are you kidding me?

It’s now been 22 days since the official start of summer on June 21 and a staggering 48 since the season’s perceived beginning on Memorial Day and I’ve eaten exactly one peach, drank one iced coffee and had one hot dog on a grill. I gotta get on the stick.

I guess I can forgive myself on the peach thing since the local ones have yet to make an appearance. And let’s face it, the ones from California or South America, while pretty to look at, do not taste even remotely like the peaches grown at, say, Brace’s Orchard, in West Wyoming. Those local peaches should appear soon at the Pittston Farmers Market and then I’ll get to work. Whenever I buy some, by the way, I always eat one in the car while driving home. Yes, without washing it. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I haven’t died yet.

At times, I’ve eaten a peach right at the stand. That’s what happened the first time I saw those “donut peaches.” They’re the ones that look like a sultan’s hat or a throw pillow. I heard they are also called Saturn peaches. I first encountered them at Brace’s stand a few years ago. I pulled one apart right then and there and instantly was hooked. What’s cool about donut peaches, aside from their great peachy taste, is that the are “free stone,” and they are available long before the regular freestones are. Plus, they’re cute.

I like farmers markets and I think it’s because I like farmers. My dad grew up on a farm, so you might say it’s in my blood. Loosely translated, the German surname Ackerman could mean farmer. “Acker” means land or field, like the word acre. So an Ackerman is a man of the field.

I’m pretty sure my dad, as a kid working in the orchards around White Haven, ate a lot of peaches without washing them. Just sayin’.

I was thinking about my dad one time at the Pittston Farmers Market when I asked a farmer if his sweet corn was fresh. He grabbed an ear out of the basket, ripped down the husk and said, “Here, take a bite.”

“You serious?” I asked. “Raw?”

“That’s what we do in the field,” he said, handing it over to me. “Got to see if it’s ready.”

So I took a bite. And it sure seemed ready to me. It was delicious. Remarkably sweet. I stood there and ate the entire ear.

I admit that has not become my preferred way to eat corn, but I do often eat cooked corn on the cob without salt or butter. It really doesn’t need it.

I’m not a bucket list kind of guy. Actually, I’m considering making a “reverse bucket list.” That’s all the things I hope I never have to do before I die. Using my airplane seat for a flotation device will be at the top. But I do have this internal list of what makes summer summer. Do I have to mention peaches?

The aforementioned ice coffee and hot dogs are near the top. And the dog has to have that weird-colored hot dog relish on it. I love that stuff.

I was introduced to iced coffee decades ago by Dr. Tony and Pauline Bruno at their medical facility where the Pittston Memorial Library now sits. Can’t say I liked it the first time, but I’ve grown to. I take it with cream and no sugar and, to me, it’s better than ice cream.

I take that back. Nothing is better than ice cream. And Mary Kay and I have to get going on what has become a summer tradition for us: sundaes at the Blue Ribbon Farm Dairy for dinner. Gosh, it’s cool to be your own parent. I’ve recommended the hot fudge sundae with toasted coconut ice cream (a Mounds bar in an ice cream dish) in the past, but I might have a new favorite: a CMP (chocolate, marshmallow, peanut) with peanut butter frozen yogurt.

Summer for me also has to include one game of catch and this year I clicked that off early. I was invited to a graduation party for one of my college students in Tunkhannock and was introduced to this 12-year-old carrying a baseball and two gloves. No one had to draw me a map. Paul Brinner Jr. and I tossed the ball around in the back yard for close to an hour. I even went back to Tunkhannock to see him pitch a Little League game a few nights later. Great kid.

That’s not the only thing I’ve clicked off my summer list. Watching a thunder storm roll in from my front porch is another and I sure got that out of my system Tuesday night. I spent all Wednesday morning cutting up the branches that snapped off the two big trees in my front yard.

Come to think of it, I’m not doing as bad a job on this summer as I thought. I’d say I’m right on schedule with summer brews. I had a pretty good Susquehanna Brewing Company Shandy the other night and tipped a few Shiner’s Ruby Redbirds one evening at Cooper’s Cabana and a few Victory Summer Loves another.

Haven’t had a root beer float yet, stopped at a kid’s lemonade stand, jumped into the Atlantic Ocean or gone to a Phillies game. But with seven weeks to go before Labor Day, something tells me I’m going to be okay.

Whew. I got a little scared summer was passing me by when we’re still more than a month away from the Pittston Tomato Festival. Tomatoes are an even bigger part of summer than peaches.