Southern Heritage and Watermelon Salad


Jude Doyland/flickr

To try Regina's watermelon-tomato salad with mint vinaigrette, click here.

I have always found writing quite easy, and as many can attest, I find talking even easier. When it comes to food, for me, the words and letters flow. However the past two weeks, whether it is the 90-plus-degree temperature and 90-percent humidity, my kitchen remodel, or the ever more depressing news about the Gulf, the words have not been flowing. I can usually pick a topic and go with it. Today I have started with doughnuts, switched to specked butter beans, and now all I can think about is a Mai Tai and wishing for cool waters.

I like to say I am "multi-tasking" as I go from my laptop to my calendar, then wander to another room to sit in front of another computer checking emails and not working on recipes, then find myself walking through the front rooms of my house to examine an empty wall that needs a new piece of art. All of this could fall under "classic procrastination" and not multitasking, but whatever you want to call it, it somehow got me to a topic that seems suitable for the season and my mood. As I was looking at my calendar, I noticed "SOFAB" watermelon salad—300 tastes, and at that very moment, finally, something clicked.

On a lighter note, let's talk watermelon. This is the best time for the sweetest and juiciest
of melons.

For those of you who do not know about the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, I am proud to say that I have been involved as one of the founding board members, but so much credit goes to our fearless leader, Liz Williams. This was her vision, and she has never once wavered and continues to be the driving force in realizing her dream. SOFAB is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding, and celebration of the food, drink, and related culture of the South. We opened our doors on June 7, 2008, at the Riverwalk Marketplace in New Orleans.

Although the museum is based in New Orleans, SOFAB examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South's unique culinary heritage. As it states on our website and printed material, "SOFAB brings all races and ethnicities to the table to tell the tale, from the farmer and the homemaker to the line cook and the celebrity chef. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum celebrates, interprets, investigates, entertains, and preserves. A collaboration of many, the Museum allows all food lovers—Southerners and non-Southerners, locals and tourists, academics and food industry insiders—to pull up their chairs and dig into the food and drink of the South. And although SOFAB is based in New Orleans, we are bringing our message about the entire South to the world through exhibits, collection of oral histories and videos, and other research."

The reason SOFAB is on my calendar is not only a board meeting, but on Sunday, August 8, we are doing a tailgate-themed party at SOFAB to support our Clearinghouse for Research on the Cultural Impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and our efforts to document the impact on the Southern community. As you know, when it comes to the oil spill I have supported being positive and not playing the "blame game," but I am also realistic about the fact that its effects are monumental to something that is close to my heart and my kitchen—our Gulf waters and regional seafood. I personally feel that this effort by SOFAB to document what is happening will be imperative for a factual historic time line. This may not be enough notice to get you there, but I certainly think you will enjoy keeping up with this project. I will try to keep you posted.

On a lighter note, let's talk watermelon. This is the best time for the sweetest and juiciest of melons. I can tell you what I think I know about them, but there is nothing scientific or validated about my beliefs—just what I have always heard and believed.

• Don't thump a melon/slap it—you can tell the ones that have the highest water content.
    • Look for the yellow spot where it rested on the ground. It should be slightly soft.
    • Look for bumps where wasps tried to penetrate—supposedly they know the sweet ones.
    • It should not be glossy. When the melon is ripe, it is not as glossy.
    • I do know they don't ripen after they are picked, so glossy is not good.

Here is one of my favorite summer recipes: watermelon-tomato salad with mint vinaigrette. This is very easy and the most refreshing of summer salads. I will finish what I started on doughnuts next week.

Recipe: Watermelon-Tomato Salad With Mint Vinaigrette