Saturday, June 1, 2013

Lemonade or Ice Cubes? How are you keeping cool?

By Minnie Apolis
(previously ran on August 2, 2012 on Newsvine site)

Here we are, the first of June already, heading into the dog days of summer, and if you do not have some strategies for keeping cool by now, you're a goner. Especially with the extreme heat and dryness of this summer.

I will start off by sharing some of my personal “favorite tricks” of warding off the heat – broken down into categories – and let you readers chime in with your own.

DRINKS – Nothing like a tall iced tea or lemonade to help you stay hydrated in hot weather. Southern-style sweet tea is optional. Mint is also a key ingredient, having a curious cooling quality. In early America, from colonial times through the 1800's, one treat was sugared mint leaves. Most people grew mint or knew where they could gather the wild variety. Individual leaves were coated in a sugar solution which helped preserve them and turned them into a sweet snack with the afternoon tea. I was presented with a sample at an herbal-themed event some years ago, sponsored by the county parks, and it was a very refreshing treat indeed.

So try adding a touch of mint to drinks or even some vegetable dishes this summer: mint tea is probably the easiest option, but mint can also be added to peas or other veggies. Mint is also an essential ingredient in the mint julep, and trust me, the julep is a very nice refresher during the mid-afternoon break when it is too hot to do anything.

FOODS: A lot of people just stop cooking hot meals, you notice that? More takeout from the groceries or fast-food joints, for one thing. But there are lots of meals that do not require standing by a hot stove. Cold dishes may require only cooking some pasta to mix in with tuna, chicken breast, salad greens, mixed Chinese veggies, etc. And you can make your own version of chef salad, of course, preferably with fresh greens from your own garden.

Food preparation is more comfortable if you ditch the oven and stovetop for the microwave and the slow cooker. A slow cooker doesn't emit nearly so much heat into the kitchen like the stove does. And a slow cooker is pretty much a one-dish meal, just toss everything into the pot -- chicken, veggies, rice, whatever spices you want, and whatever sauce you want or none, and that's it. Throw it in and forget about it.

This brings up the other popular method of food preparation in summer which is cooking out on a grill. Why anyone voluntarily stands by a heat-emitting device for a couple hours in the dead of summer is a bit of a mystery, but there ya go. At least the heat is not trapped inside a room, broasting you while the meat grills. And whoever mans the grills usually gets some perks, usually involving the ingestion of hop-flavored liquids.

THE CAR: Boy do I hate getting into a hot car after work. You're lucky if you can park in a parking structure, where your auto is out of the direct sun. But doing any kind of errand will mean parking in a parking lot or on the street. I have already shared my tip about tossing an old towel over the steering wheel while it is parked. This keeps the sun from heating up your steering wheel to about the temperature of that grill mentioned above. I already have a wheel cover that wraps around it, but even the cover gets pretty warm. Ergo, the towel. Just toss it onto the passenger seat and you're good to go.

I also open the window for at least the first five minutes or so of driving, to get the hot air out of the car. When I feel the AC kicking in, then I can close them again.

BODY HEAT: No not the movie, tho it was a classic, hey? Try holding an ice pack on hot spots when you get home from work or play. Hot spots vary with individuals, but usually that triangle at the base of the neck is a good one to chill. (Drug stores sell reusable ice packs which give years of service; just wash them after use and stick them back in the freezer.) 

I have read of people putting an ice cube in the armpits, and tho it sounds funny it does help. The back of the neck, the forehead, the wrists, the belly are all good targets for cooling. In fact, the plains Indians would dip strips of leather in a cold stream and tie them around the wrists. The reason for that is the pulse points in the wrists are readily cooled this way. On the same logic, avoid wearing most metal bracelets in hot weather.

NO A/C AT HOME? There are places you can go for free where you can cool off. Some cities have cooling centers, but there are other places that one can go where one is cooled as a side benefit. One is the mall, of course, and many of them have places where you can sit near a mini-waterfall or other decorative feature. Going to a movie will get you in an AC-cooled environment for a couple hours at least. Bookstores and other shops may have lectures or readings, free to the public, by authors and authorities in their fields.

Another technique involves fooling the brain. You mentally place yourself in a cold environment. I enjoyed talking to a friend who just returned from a trip to Alaska, and it was very pleasant to gaze on pictures of glaciers and ice floes and the like. So rent a movie about Alaska, or about that disastrous Shackleton expedition, or anything set in winter or Christmas-time. Groundhog Day is a good one.

Flip ahead in the calendar to December and see what that picture is – probably evergreens in snow – or back to January and February. This is where I think the calendar makers have it all backwards. In summer we do not want to look at hot beaches and stuff like that. And in winter when we are freezing our buns off we do not need pictures of more snow and ice and cold stuff. In February is when I would like to look at a tropical beach, thank you.

Hope this brief article holds at least one new tip that you can use.

No comments: