Feeding Your Family: Keeping Your Cool

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This article is featured in the August '07 Feeding Your Family Newsletter
Keeping Your Cool • This Month's Recipes: Gazpacho, Quesadillas and Guacamole
 • What's in Season? Tomatoes!Things We Love! The Sneaky Chef

Health Check: The Rainbow Connection

By Larissa Phillips

I envy the southern matrons of several generations ago. Come the dog days of August, they simply moved their kitchen work from their stately but un-air-conditioned homes to an outbuilding, where the heat of the baking pies and frying chicken wouldn't add to the heat of the house. Of course, I don't envy the cooks who were out there in the stifling, annexed kitchens, actually doing the cooking. But the idea has its appeal.

Now that I am both matron and cook in my own house, with not even a modern approximation of the outdoor kitchen, I have to make do with the best kitchen tool of all: common sense. Hot kitchens call for cool preparations, and as little actual cooking as possible.

This means lots of fresh vegetables and salads, a tactic that works well with those favorite current buzzwords in the food world: eating locally and seasonally. Eating seasonally is tough in January in much of the country. How many squash soups and pureed root vegetables can a person eat? But in August, nothing could be easier. Besides, bodies don't seem to want to eat so much when the temperature is soaring.

My other strategy:

Get out of the house. Al fresco dining is a great, lazy pleasure, and you don't need to be in a sidewalk café to enjoy it. We eat in our back yard, at the park, at the beach - anywhere but inside. Our local park has outdoor summer concerts, which we attend as often as possible, hiking over to our favorite spot with our always-ready-to-go bag of picnic essentials (blanket, pocket knife, bubbles, balls, bug spray), and whatever we've packed for dinner.

On the laziest of days, we pick up sandwiches and a bottle of cold wine on the way, and then chill out to the sounds of the concert while the kids chase each other up and down the hill, and prowl for crickets and fireflies. We eat our sandwiches, watch dusk arrive and, finally, walk home as happy parents with sleepy children.

Sometimes, it's about more than just the food.

Larissa Phillips is an award-winning writer, food lover and a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Email her at