The pitcher and cups in this photograph – old Dutch-made blue willow – were in my great aunt Johnnie Dell Ridgdill’s tiny kitchen for as long as I can remember.
Aunt Johnnie was a force in my childhood. A retired nurse, she helped my grandmother Colleen raise my mother after my mother’s father, Charles, died from colon cancer when my mother was just 12. More a doting grandmother than a great aunt, Aunt Johnnie was 70 when I was born, but in spite of her carefully coiffed white curls, I don’t think I noticed her advanced age.
I happily spent weekends at her house, sorting through the costume jewelry in a massive mint green faux leather jewelry box and eating orange popsicles. She drove me around town in her 1960 Cheverolet Biscayne, took me to lunch at Billy Lankford’s ramshackle cafe for fried chicken and cornbread, and suffered through countless episodes of the Dukes of Hazzard. She taught my brother to read with a set of wooden blocks, cut squares of wax paper for us to sit on when we went down the huge aluminum slide at the elementary school across from her house, and just generally infused everything she did with love.
When Aunt Johnnie passed away in 2001, I was on the other side of the country at language school, immersed in my studies and the excitement of starting a new life – but still, a little light went out of the world. All these years later the blue willow pitcher and cups are in my own kitchen, and when I catch a glimpse of them while I’m cooking, I like to think she’s with me.
Today’s I’m making this summery salad that combines cold, crunchy cucumber noodles with blueberries and a surprising spicy dressing. To make the cucumber noodles, I used my new spiralizer. I don’t have a lot of kitchen gadgets, but this one is worth buying if you like to make noodles out of vegetables as much as we do. “Zoodling” is a great way to use a lot of vegetables at the height of a summer garden harvest, as with this recipe, which calls for four cucumbers. If you don’t have a spiralizer, a julienne peeler works just fine.
- 4 large cucumbers
- 2 large jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped
- 4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ cup good olive oil
- 2 cups blueberries
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- Make the cucumber noodles using a spiralizer or a julienne peeler.
- In a large bowl, combine the jalapeno, lime juice, garlic, cumin, and olive oil. Add the cucumber noodles, blueberries and cilantro and toss gently to coat.