There isn’t much room for us to operate here at the high end of our temperature range. In winter, by contrast, it can drop 10 degrees below normal and still be tolerable. It could drop another 10 degrees and while it would suck, it could still drop another 10 degrees before the pipes are bursting and we’re huddled together like Eskimos in an igloo, eating pig blubber, and learning different words for snow. But if you tack another 30 degrees onto the normal high temperatures … imagine that. Not cool.
Today, it’s so hot that outside seems like outer space. Even small excursions, like a trip to the mailbox, become carefully orchestrated missions. I suit up with shades, hat, full Camelback, and this cotton outfit I got in India. Out there, if I stop hydrating I slam into a wall of slow-motion delirium, and I’m useless.
Where there is water there is life, even paradise. And while I’ve been making plenty of trips to the river, I’ve been doing most of my paradising in a blender, where fruit and ice are transformed into different presentations of snow. This thirst-quenching art is crafted to tickle taste buds while refreshing the whole body with water, electrolytes, vitamins, and other stuff we need to keep operating smoothly in these conditions.
While exerting myself on a household project recently, it happened again. Something snapped like an icicle in my gooey brain, and next thing I knew, I was on a blender bender.
It usually starts with ice and lemonade powder.
It has to be good lemonade powder. Otherwise you have to use the real thing (lemon or lime and sweetener). Most lemonade mixes, like Country Time, contain strange types of sugar, like fructose or corn syrup, and the lemon flavor is artificial. The lemonade powder they sell in bulk at my store is good quality, a simple evaporated mix of lemon and sugar that’s become indispensable to me these blasting-hot days. But make no mistake: Lemonade powder is never as good as fresh-squeezed juice and good sweetener.
To this lemonade powder and ice I added fresh strawberries and a few mint leaves, and proceeded to work the gears on that blender like it was an 18-wheel rig on a windy road, shifting speeds to maximize ice-crushing contact with the thirsty blades. You want enough ice for good body and extended coolness if you happen to set down your drink, but you probably don’t like waiting for your drink to melt so you can drink it.
I like mine blended into that different form of snow we call slush. If it’s too thick, or if the ice isn’t getting sucked in, I add more water and blend more, tasting and tweaking until it’s perfect — like that strawberry-mint lemonade I dispatched so quickly I barely remember what happened.
So I made another one, this time with real lime, sugar, and fresh raspberries. I made it extra-thick, and then stirred in some bubbly water after it was blended. Back in the day, we used to call something like this a “Lime Rickey.” The bubbles are a nice touch — just remember: whatever you call it, the bubbly is stirred, not blended.
Still not sated, I made a batch of basil lemonade that, had I not been in the hammock, would have brought me to my knees. Just ice, lemonade powder, and very fresh basil leaves (some prefer to strain out the leaf particles before serving), this drink shows us a different, cooler, side of basil.
By the way, if these recipes just aren’t “bender” enough for you, feel free to add rum, vodka, Kool-Aid, etc., to any of the above.
After my slush fest, I stayed in the hammock for a little nap. But even in the shade, the heat of the day was a monster. I was knocked out, but the sleep was shallow. I emerged dizzy and slow.
I was prepared for this, having brewed a pot of stovetop espresso that morning — when it was cool enough to think straight — and set the coffee aside to cool to room temperature (hot coffee melts the ice en-blender). I loaded the blender with ice, espresso, two HEAPING tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, nearly as much evaporated cane sugar, and a big pour of vanilla soy milk (if substituting here with milk, half & half, heavy cream, chocolate soy milk, etc, please add vanilla), and my weird secret weapon: 2 teaspoons of powdered whey (whey is a milk-based byproduct of the cheese-making process, commonly used in protein powder), which helps thicken the drink, so you drink more slowly.
I of course still managed to suck it down too fast to remember any of it, but I think it felt somewhat like skydiving. And the rich aftertaste lingered long in my mouth, that earthy, gritty flavor of pure chocolate and rich coffee perfectly supported by cool, sweet, full-bodied creaminess … No doubt about it, my buzz was back.
Twenty minutes later, of course, it was like none of this had ever happened. Like an addict with his needle, I had my precious blender in my arms, and my bender continued.