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Certain sounds, scents and tastes will always spell summer to me, returning me to a long ago and seemingly simpler place and time in my life when summers spent in New England seemed to last a lifetime.

In no particular order, here are my triggers.

Bird song filling the early summer mornings coming from the “woods” next door to my house.

Dinners on the screened porch were followed by Dad falling asleep on the wrought iron lounge chair, the inevitable summer thunder-storm and the increasingly shrill calls from my mother signaling my Dad that it was time to come inside.

The first sweet corn of the season was bought only from local farmers with the mandate to cook and eat asap.  It was an eagerly awaited event in late July.  It was a brief, celebrated season, precious enough to make it a requirement for every dinner served to have corn on the cob from the Underwood Farm. By general agreement, Sugar & Butter corn, was the tastiest of all. It would arrive a few weeks into the season and really kick summer  into high gear.  Stories of acquaintances who could eat a dozen ears of corn at a seating, were told and retold around the dinner table each summer.sweet corn

Impatiens.  One of the few flowers my Mom could grow successfully in our shaded landscape. She made the most of it, adding baskets of them wherever possible and carefully monitoring them to insure  high performance all summer.  Her love of flowers soon became mine.impatience

Ferocious thunderstorms could be so terrifying and intense that I might have to crawl in bed with my parents. This behavior was generally, not encouraged, but sometimes tolerated. The darkness and heaviness before the storms was mixed with anticipation and fear. During one vicious storm, lightening split a giant oak tree in half just a few feet from our house, as sparks flew from the radio before all electricity cut off.

The sounds of the radio, broadcasting Boston Red Sox games.

The bitter cold of the Atlantic Ocean, north of Boston. 

The first smell of salt air as we neared the beach. Lobster dinners at the beach whenever possible, be it in New London, Conn., Cape Cod, Rockport, Mass. or Nantucket.  The pure pleasure of sunny beach days , sand dunes, beach grasses and wild roses mixing it up.  The importance of a good tan.


The unforgettable beauty of a sunny summer’s day in Nantucket

The threat of hurricanes at the end of summer that would sometimes cut vacations short.

Pin ball machines, Miniature golf and the Dodge-em.

I always enjoyed our regular outings to Tanglewood, the Music Inn and Jacob’s Pillow (all in the Berkshires.)  I developed my love of jazz at the Music Inn listening to the MJQ, Dakotah Staton, Miles Davis and Brubeck whenever I could get a car for the hour long drive to get there. At Jacob’s Pillow, I got to sample some of the best artists of the era and expand my love and appreciation of dance.  Tanglewood was mostly my Mom’s thing. For me, it meant too many people trying to out-picnic each other.  The music outside the tent seemed secondary to the picnics.  But I went along, because it brought her pleasure.

The Good Humor Truck made a regular appearance at our little beach in Ocean Beach Park, New London, Conn.  A toasted coconut, please.

Most weekends we hosted large family cook-outs on our back porch, fighting mosquitoes. Dad was the self – appointed master griller, always ready with a rare juicy steak, while the women prepared the sweet corn, green salad and a fresh fruit salad.  My job was to set the table.

Black Raspberry and Maple Walnut Ice Cream, were my favorite flavors that were readily available in New England.  To this day, I seek them out when in the Northeast.

maple walnut

Yum. Maple walnut ice cream.

black raspberry ice cream

Double yum, black raspberry ice cream. Curiously, not available in the West.

“If I had to choose one ice cream flavor for the rest of my life, it would be black raspberry. Yes, there’s the color, which is almost obscene in its intensity. But the flavor of black raspberries, when combined with cream, sugar and egg yolks, transforms into something rich and lush, and at the same time floral; for me, it’s a nostalgic flavor, both childlike and sophisticated at the same time.”  Merrill Stubb (cookbook author)

Makes one pint of Black Raspberry Ice Cream

  • 1 1/4cups heavy cream
  • 3/4cup whole milk
  • 1/2cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 3large egg yolks
  • 1/2teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2cups black raspberries
  1. Heat the cream, milk, sugar and a pinch of salt in a heavy pot until it’s just beginning to bubble around the edges (do not let it boil).
  2. In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Temper the yolks by slowly whisking in about a third of the hot cream, and then whisk this mixture back into the pot with the rest of the cream.
  3. Cook the custard over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Make sure not to let it boil. Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve and stir in the vanilla.
  4. Puree the raspberries in a blender and strain through a sieve to remove the seeds. Stir the puree into the custard, cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.
  5. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker, transfer to a container and put in the freezer to harden completely. Soften for a few minutes at room temperature before serving.
Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.

One Comment

  • Charlotte says:

    I read this as we were returning from a week in Cape Cod and it’s right on point! I need to go back to Massachusetts every so often just to feel the past. Beautifully written, Dianne, as usual. Don’t know how you remember all the details, but, come to think of it, my favorite was pistachio! Summer nights are quite different, obviously, in NYC….

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