After a big shish kebab dinner cooked over an open fire, what could be better in the cool of the evening (for the preparer of the meal as well as the diner) to have the traditional watermelon and cheese. And not just any watermelon or any cheese. Ice cold watermelon -- the big long heavy ones with plenty of black seeds (certainly not seedless or yellow inside) -- and cheese -- Armenian home made cheese, "banir", or failing that, slices of muenster cheese or (the closest in taste and texture) Queso Blanco or Queso Fresco (available in the cheese case at Costco for those of you who frequent Costco or in the Hispanic grocery stores for those of you who live in the inner city). The men who had been working in the garden or tilling the fields would sprinkle salt on their watermelon which always surprised us kids who couldn't understand why anyone would put salt on fruit. But the most fun of all was sitting around after eating the watermelon and cheese, finding the fattest blackest watermelon seeds that we had carefully saved on our plates (that is, if we were eating the watermelon at the table), placing those black seeds edgewise between our front teeth and cracking them in order to eat the yummy white innards of those seeds! In fact, if you've traveled to Istanbul, you'll know that in the candy stores there, they sell those white centers of watermelon seeds that are hanging on long strings and dipped in sweet fruit syrup, sold as a sweet to hungry passersby. (One would only hope that the whites of those seeds were not cracked in the vendor's mouth before the stringing and the sweetening processes!)
Watermelon seeds also have a place in our family history because of Pambook Jack (whose name translates to Cotton or Soft Jack). Pambook Jack had a very large belly and when the kids would ask him how his belly got so fat, he would always laugh and say that he had swallowed a watermelon seed and as a result, a watermelon had grown inside of his stomach!
These warm summer days bring such warm summer memories of those wonderful times spent in our back yard in Newtonville, at Aunty Nectar's Farm in Hopkinton, and those unending summer picnics in Wilbraham, Massachusetts. But, as my father would say, those days are gone forever!