Cooking & Eating, Ingredients, Sweet

Lemonade; or, When Life Gives You Lemons

Life, alas, handed me some lemons last week.

It is difficult for me to overstate just how disruptive it has been to have been without a working oven for a week and more. Oh, in part the disruption has been about the blog. Every summer treat I might want to show you all — from tarts and quiches, to simple roasted vegetables, to fine and fancy eclairs — all requires an insulated box full of fire to transform raw ingredients into food.

But in part the disruption is simply quotidien. I had no idea how often I use my oven for reheating leftovers, or defrosting food that I’ve frozen, or seasoning a pan, or doing any one of a million other tiny tasks that are necessary to prevent the creeping scourge of delivery pizza from slowly taking over the house.

What happened is this: somewhat more than a week ago, as part of a special, by-request meal for my visiting mother-in-law (hi!), I went to pop a casserole dish of macaroni and cheese with collard greens into the oven. And poof! No heat.

I had set it to preheat, I knew. And turning it on and off — and then wiggling the dial for good measure — did nothing at all. So in a panic, I rushed the pasta over to a friend’s house to bake. And I resolved to get my landlord to fix it first thing in the morning.

It was Sarah, actually, who ended up doing that part — reporting the problem. But the real problem was that it was the Wednesday before the Fourth of July and, as the landlord told us, unless there’s a gas leak, all of their maintenance folks were already enjoying their long weekend off.

Fair enough. I recognize the position of privilege that allows something so trivial as a broken oven to seem like a serious hardship from my perspective. And I recognize — especially when there are holiday weekends involved — that it sometimes takes a while to get these things resolved.

And so I was neither particularly put out, nor particularly surprised, when it took a week and a day for the faulty unit to be replaced. I supped on take-out, and at some delicious restaurants, and on what I could make on the stove. And I let one week’s worth of blog posts slip by in silence.

Lemonade; or, When Life Gives You Lemons

But here’s the thing about what happens when life hands you lemons. The only proper thing to do — really — in the end — is make lemonade. And while, for a week and more, I was marooned without an oven, that’s just what I did.

I made pitchers of that yellow sweet-and-sour, invigorating, revitalizing, perfect-for-a-long-hot-summer’s-day fluid. I figured out (I think) how to produce a lemonade that’s not too cloying and not too puckering. I discovered that there’s something that feels deeply, satisfyingly hydrating about a tall, cold glass of the stuff in the mid-afternoon. And I took some notes — so that you can make it too.

And while I was at it, I also figured out this other thing. There’s a flaw, I think, in that proverb about lemons and lemonade, and here it is: though life handed me lemons last week, it clearly did not hand me enough. Because after several pitchers of lemonade — after all the citrus in the house was all used up — I did not think to myself thank goodness, now lets move on. What I did think was: alas! When can we get to the grocery to buy another bag of fruit?

Lemonade; or, When Life Gives You Lemons

The Lemonade

5 1/2 cups Water (preferably filtered)
1 1/2 cups Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice (about 6 lemons)
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
1 tray of Ice Cubes (sixteen cubes in all)

On the stove over medium heat, mix one cup of water and the sugar, stirring until it all dissolves into simple syrup. Then turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool.

Squeeze the lemons thoroughly. Then add the ice cubes, juice, syrup, and the remainder of the water to a two liter pitcher, and stir thoroughly to mix the ingredients and cool.

Feel free to drink the lemonade right away. It’s delicious just as it is. But its flavor ripens as it sits in the refrigerator, and it’s really at it’s best after 48 hours. So if you can wait that long to drink the lemonade, I would highly recommend it.