Easy Summer Salads for Life without Air-Conditioning


A-photo-of-Colleen-NewquistWhen I stopped to pick up a pizza the other night, a fan whirred on the hostess desk of the tepidly air-conditioned restaurant. It was hot outside, the temperature hovering around 90, with humidity that felt nearly as high. In conversation with the 20-something hostess about the malfunctioning cooling system and the weather in general, I casually mentioned that we don’t use air conditioning in our home. She gasped, her eyes wide, “What do you DO?”

The hostess, I realized, had never experienced life without air conditioning. It existed when I was growing up, but in my blue-collar town, it was a luxury my parents didn’t invest in until I was nearly grown and gone. Now, even though we can well afford it, not using air conditioning is a choice. All the long, long winter, we fantasize about steamy nights, sitting on the porch barefoot, cold bottle of beer leaving sweat rings on the table, listening to the symphony of cicadas, crickets, and katydids. This is living, we tell each other. And it is.

Unfortunately, it’s a dying way of life. I believe we are the only household in a neighborhood of 75 homes or so without an air conditioner on. If a thunderstorm knocks the power out, the streets hum with the sounds of backup generators.

On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoy the silence of a sealed up neighborhood. We always feel lucky when we’re sitting outside, because it seems like we’re the only ones. The sounds we hear are of the natural world, except the car alarm that goes off down the street every time an acorn falls on it, and the power washing and leaf blowing of the anal-retentive neighbor across the creek — but those are other stories, long, expletive-filled stories, and thankfully, not regular occurrences. Mostly we hear the owls and coyotes and see bats swoop through the yard, and it’s lovely.

Admittedly, a long string of hot days can get me wishing for a cool, closed-up home. But only momentarily. The minute I think about shutting the windows, I decide that sweating is OK by me. I spend my days in an office with windows that don’t open; when I come home, I want to breathe.

So what do we DO without air-conditioning? Well, when it’s really hot, not much. Or as little as we can get away with. And we sweat. We do have a pool — a nice, big in-ground pool. But you can only stay in the water so long. You can’t do laundry or vacuum or cook or blog from a diving board. So we live the way I have lived for most of my life — with the windows open, the fans blowing, sleeping with nothing but a sheet on, sometimes even pushing that aside. We eat lighter fare (or pick up a pizza!) and we cook outdoors as much as possible.

Chuck Mallory
8/22/2010 12:26:39 PM

Yes, it's interesting to see how many people think humans can no longer SURVIVE without AC! And amen to the words about car alarms and leaf blowers. I even had someone tell me the other day they were so "tired" of hearing the LOCUSTS! I tried to explain what a cicada was. Anyway, these recipes sound great. I'll be sure to try them.

8/2/2010 10:40:51 AM

My sister and I were just talking about that as children we never had air conditioning and wondering how we stood it. This year though the heat doesn't seem to be letting up so these salads sound wonderful. We do use window air-conditioners here but only occasionally when we can't stand it anymore! Thanks for the dinner ideas. vickie

Nebraska Dave
7/29/2010 3:54:56 PM

I just whipped up a smoothie today with yogurt, strawberries, a little milk, and a banana. It turned really yummie for my first ever attempt to make a smoothie. My grandson tried his attempt at making a smoothie. I tried to tell him the things he wanted to put in the smoothie wouldn't really taste too good, but he is his mother's son and would not be convinced other wise so we whipped up a small one. First ingredient was his favorite chololate milk, then blueberries, then strawberries, then grapes. All things he really likes. So we blended it up and he took a big old slurp. The look on his face from was priceless. I asked how it was, there was moment of silence, and he indicated it was good. However he suddenly wasn't thirsty any more. :0) Smoothies seem to be a good way to use fruit before it goes bad. I'm definitely going to try more. As for cold coffee, I think I would have to add some stuff to it in order to drink it cold. Any suggestions?

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