Summer Will Always Taste Like Lemon
Fresh, tart and surprising, is there a more iconic food?
The memory of lemon chocolate is one that will forever be burned into my brain…and taste buds.
It was the summer of 1998 when my family visited the island of Capri in Italy. We had been living in Italy for two years at this point. (When I was a teenager, my dad received a job opportunity that resulted in my parents moving their three children to a country we had never visited – a place where we knew nothing about the language, people, or history.) We ended up living in Milan for three years, and my parents used every opportunity to venture to other Italian and European cities, big and small, to ensure we soaked up every ounce of the potential that the opportunity provided. One week, we ventured south and headed to the Amalfi Coast.
Overall, the trip had started out great. We got to experience and see so many things. We learned about Mount Vesuvius and the tragic destruction it caused in Pompei, then went to Sorrento and got hand-carved music boxes. I loved choosing the song that went into my music box – “Memory,” from the musical, “Cats.”
But, the journey to Capri was a bit rocky. Since Capri is an island, we had to take a boat there, and the Tyrrhenian Sea was not friendly that day. I remember not feeling well and watching nearly every passenger around me become sick. In my head, I knew we were making our way to the island, but it felt more like we were rocking back and forth, rather than making any gains in distance. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more grateful to arrive anywhere else in my life, than when we officially arrived at the dock on Capri.
Fast-forward about 20 years, and seeing TikToks and Instagram posts of other people’s vacations to Capri and the Amalfi Coast results in waves of nostalgia, waves of memories; I am instantly transported back to that summer, that trip, and that memorable boat ride. I can still picture the canopies of lemon trees that graced restaurant courtyards and created street orchards. I recall looking up to see their big, yellow, round bodies poking out vibrantly among the green, almost as though it was a lemon constellation of stars. I remember the wonder I felt, looking up at those big pieces of fruit, and marveling at the fact that those “stars” were within my grasp. I could just reach up and pick one to make it mine! I can remember popping into shops to taste the sweet, tart lemon chocolate, and watching my parents taste Limoncello, a cool, refreshing beverage I now enjoy as an adult.
When I think of summer, I think of that trip to Capri, and I think of the lemons that were as big as softballs. I don’t know if there is a more iconic summer food than a lemon – a food that is capable of opening the door to thousands of memories and stories from other people’s childhoods as well. It is a core memory from many other phases of my upbringing, too.
I picture driving down the streets of a tree-lined neighborhood, where kids are playing in the front yard, running through a sprinkler, or getting their first taste of small business ownership by running a lemonade stand.
I envision learning how to swim in my uncle’s pool, my family lounging nearby in their chairs, sipping on ice water garnished with lemon slices.
I think of the dessert my mom has made hundreds of times over the course of my 38 years, lemon lush. The combination of graham crackers, lemon pudding, and whipped topping was the ideal treat after grilled corn on the cob, my favorite broccoli salad, and mac ‘n cheese.
In hindsight, lemon has not only been one of my favorite and iconic summer foods, but one of the most omnipresent flavors in my life.
The taste of lemon chocolate (and the memories that accompany it) is something that I’ve been yearning to re-experience for more than 20 years. I know exactly how to get it, of course. Plan the trip, book the flight, take the boat to Capri (pack some Dramamine), and find a local chocolate or souvenir shop. Lemon chocolate wouldn’t be hard to find.
But recreating that memory would be. There’s something so sweet, and acidic, about a memory, after all – it’s wonderful to remember, but impossible to perfectly replicate.
For now, I’ll stick with consuming the lemons I often buy in bulk. I use them in everything – lemon and ricotta pasta, an arugula, tomato and burrata salad with lemon vinaigrette, or simply, my daily water with lemon.
For me, summer will always taste like…lemon.
About the author
I believe in simple things. Breathing fully. Basking in the sunshine. Enjoying a good meal. Laughing so hard you're not sure when you can come up for air. Warm hugs. And that's why I feel most at home in Italy. Just call me an Italophile.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions