sour thyme lemonade

Remember this summer, when everyone was complaining about the unrelenting heat? And the weather channels all went ballistic? And Toronto had it’s first heat wave EVER? And a bunch of crops failed, Grapes of Wrath-style? And there was even a Wikipedia article called Summer 2012 North American Heat Wave, which helped me gather data for this list of rhetorical questions? Well, here in the whimsical climate system known as Los Angeles, it is still summer – in October. And not happy-fun-time-on-the-beach summer, but the-mailperson-caught-me-lounging-on-the-couch-in-my-underwear-in-the-mid-afternoon-again summer. Today, in fact, was the first time it wasn’t over 90°F (or 32°C, because I’m too amped up to do the usual fake conversions), though the oppressive heat of the California sun has a way of making one’s skin feel like it’s singeing – despite the false comfort of my phone’s conciliatory weather report, which promises me that the city will stay below 80° for the next few days at least.

Yesterday, when I returned home from teaching a 7-hour studio class, I could feel that promise lingering in the genuine coolness of the night air. It wasn’t the usual breezy lick on the back of my neck as I stepped out of the car, but more like the deepening chill of an ice cube plunged into a glass of water. This coolness permitted me to enjoy my first authentic autumnal gesture: hot chocolate, spiked with bourbon. And though in the morning the sun felt much less punishing than usual, that tiny glimpse of fall had vanished into the dishwasher as a pale, frothy ring of lavender circling the inside of a mug.

But, as they say, when life gives you lemons – which, due to globalization, you can get pretty much anywhere throughout the year – it’s best to dump sugar on them and then sell them at a huge markup to your neighbors. I would have done that with the thyme lemonade I made this afternoon, but I like my lemonade pretty sour, and that’s not to everyone’s taste. I like to feel a little burn in my chest when I drink lemonade (on its own, or spiked with vodka), just to remind me that the California sun can never be extinguished, even as the seasons (sort of) change. It’s the beacon that, despite its constant abuse, has kept me fluttering in this insane city’s orbit.

Sour Thyme Lemonade
(serves one)

Ingredients:
-the juice of 3 lemons, strained
-3 tablespoons of sugar
-1/3 cup of water
-5-6 sprigs of thyme (I used lemon thyme, which has bigger leaves)
-ice

After you’ve juiced the lemons into a glass, put the sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat. When the sugar has dissolved completely, with the aid of some stirring, put in all but 1 or 2 of the sprigs of thyme and let the mixture cool.

Once the liquid has cooled, strain it into the glass with the lemon juice in it. Top off with either some chilled vodka or a little more cold water, along with a few cubes of ice, and then garnish with the remaining thyme. If you live somewhere cooler, close your eyes and remember that, just like it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, it’s also always summer somewhere – so it never really has to end.

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