I spent last week back home in Lacombe, Louisiana, cooking for family and friends, cooing over too many amber-roped sunsets, and avoiding my laptop, camera, and cell phone like it was my job. This kind of electronic avoidance is necessary sometimes, I’m convinced. For sanity and centering and remembering what it’s like to just be. To just cook, eat.
Lacombe, since I’m assuming you’ve never heard of it, is a sweet, simple community where bayous spiderweb their way through soft clay soil and where, I’m convinced, boats outnumber cars. It’s also land of too-many-million-mosquitoes and home to some of the hottest air I’ve felt in a long time. I know, I know, I grew up in Louisiana. I should know all about the heavy like water “air you can wear,” as my stepdad likes to refer to it.
Maybe it’s accidental, maybe it’s intentional. But the truth is, I forget.
Every time I hop off of the plane and plant my feet on Oregon soil, taking deep, deep inhales of cool 60-degree weather, the thick spoonable swamp air sails far from my mind and I forget all about the face full of sweat beads that stung my eyeballs when I bent over too far and the summer skin cells that squeaked like candle wax when they rubbed together.
I conveniently, casually, unapologetically forget.
Next time I go, though, I will remember. And I’m going to pack more shorts because one pair was far from enough. And I’m not even going to complain at all about the heat that I swear could be the end of me because I’m going to have these cantaloupe slushies blended and partially frozen in the freezer, at the ready for that precise moment when I move from the outdoor sauna-like side of the door to the side with the cranked way down central A/C. (As it was this trip, though I had cantaloupe chopped and everything ready for making these slushies, I couldn’t bring anymore effort to preparing happy hour drinks than the flick of a wrist required to pop open a beer bottle. #sorrynotsorry.)
Slushies, if you’ve never heard of them, are basically like daiquiris. Only, they’re less sickly sweet, often have more nuanced fresh fruit-forward flavors, and, in my opinion, lack the creamy over-the-top richness that your standard daiquiri has. I blend these with peak-season cantaloupe, a little bit of honey syrup made from the bee hive honey of some friends back home (Thanks, Mark and Betsy!), and a heavy dose of gin, and I garnish them with crispy prosciutto for a different kind of meat and melon combo.
Of course, you can nix the prosciutto topping if you want to keep things simple. But I find it adds a little something to the otherwise straightforward melon-based slush. I imagine it would also nicely replenish some of those lost sweat salts if you just so happen to live in a state that comes with my most dreaded – I will not forget now – air you can wear.
- 5 oz dry gin
- 3 oz honey simple syrup, about ½ cup*
- 8 oz cubed fresh cantaloupe, about 1 cup
- 2 oz of lime juice
- 3 dashes of orange bitters
- 5 pieces of crispy prosciutto (see below for recipe)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and place prosciutto strips on a wire wrack on top of a rimmed baking tray. Place in the oven (while the oven is still preheating) and cook until crispy, about 10-13 minutes, rotating the pan after the first 5 minutes.
- Combine gin, honey syrup, cantaloupe, lime juice, and orange bitters in a blender. Blend until thick and combined. Bang bottom of blender on countertop to loosen bubbles from the bottom (fresh fruit produces bubbles when blended!) and allow to settle on the countertop for a few minutes so that bubbles dissipate. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 3 hours (or overnight), then blend again just before serving. Your mixture should be partially frozen when you remove from the freezer but if you forget about it (as I often do!) and it freezes too much, just run it under warm water until it loosens slightly and can blend easily.