Last December, in the midst of the coldest days of the year, my neighborhood friends began a weekly tradition called Sunday Dinner. We took turns hosting each other for a big dinner that somehow seemed to ease the transition from weekend relaxation back into the monotony of the work week. It quickly become one of the highlights of my week as acquaintances turned to friends, and we continued the fun well into the spring months.
We took a hiatus from Sunday Dinner during the summer though, when our weekend schedules were all jam packed with vacations, and shore days, and concerts, and baseball games. As August came to a close, we all agreed that it was time to fall back into our weekly routine.
Around here Labor Day is the unofficial final day of summer, so Roommate and I decided to kick off Sunday Dinner for the fall season on Monday night (does that even make sense?). The thing I love about Sunday Dinner is the simplicity of it all. The host provides a main course (Mexican Pulled Chicken Sandwiches), maybe a side dish (summer succotash), and a beverage (homemade sangria, anyone??), while the rest of the group rounds the meal out with their own contributions: pasta salad, a case of beer, mixed fruit, dessert, a bottle of wine… total potluck style!
Sunday dinner isn’t about pretentious food or impressing anyone. It’s all about taking time out of a busy week to share a meal with friends. To take a few moments out of our hectic lives to check in with one another and ask how things are going, expecting a real answer, not just an autopilot response. We watch football (or Catfish marathons), we play board games, we enjoy a meal, and we connect with one another. Even with our return to the office looming the next day, Sunday Dinner often extends late into the evening.
After everyone had left last Monday, I took some time to unwind. Removing all unnecessary layers of clothing, I lounged in the living room with Roommate and her sister. Although summer was coming to a close, the temperature didn’t seem to reflect the change of the season and after hosting 18 friends, the apartment was sweltering. The kitchen was still a mess but we couldn’t be bothered. We needed a moment. A moment to reflect on what a summer it had been.
Way back in
May April, the three of us made a promise to one another that this would be the “best summer ever.” (everyone needs one of those, right?) This would be the season that we would talk about for every summer to follow. This would be the year that, God willing we have families of our own some day, we would tell our children about until they couldn’t stand it anymore.
And you know what? For so many reasons that I can’t find the words to properly articulate, this summer was everything we dreamed it would be at its commencement I guess all you need to know is that I
was am happy. We all are. Probably happier than any of us have been in a very long time. And we have this summer to thank for that.
As we laid on our respective couches, The Lumineers quietly drifting from Roommate’s computer, we all joined in during the second verse of Stubborn Love.
It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all. The opposite of love’s indifference.
“I feel like summer just broke up with me,” I blurted out. “I’m not ready for this all to end just yet.”
“YES!” Roommate and her sister agreed. “I was trying to pinpoint how I was feeling but a breakup is the perfect description. How can something so good be over already?”
I know we have much to look forward to in the coming months, but I’m just not ready to say goodbye. I’m not ready to close the door on summer. I’m not prepared to move on from the carefree (and a little bit careless) days I’ve become so accustomed to over the last few months. I’m not ready for classes to begin, or the demands at work to pick up, or some of those real-life-grown-up-responsibilities I’ve been avoiding to land in my lap. I’m just not, so excuse me please while I desperately hang on to this summer for just a few days longer.
If you, like us, are not quite ready to bid farewell to summer, then I suggest you give it one last final hurrah with this homemade sangria recipe. Hurry hurry though, because unfortunately watermelon won’t be in season much longer.
Fresh watermelon juice is the perfect base to this cocktail, pairing wonderfully with a crisp pinot grigio. My original plan for the recipe was to make it with mint, but I somehow forgot it at the grocery store and substituted the basil instead, which in my opinion leads to an even more interesting depth of flavor. The lime juice adds just enough tartness, hinting that watermelon sangria might just be inspired by another summer favorite, the Margarita. I like to top all my homemade sangria off with some tonic water for a little bit of fizz and sweetness, but feel free to hold it and sip as is.
Whatever you do though, don’t let summer end without giving this a try. I’m pretty sure all my friends at Sunday Dinner would tell you the same!
- 1.5 liter (the big one) bottle of pinot grigio
- 1 cup triple sec (or other orange liquor)
- 1 lb diced watermelon (about 2 cups)
- 5 limes juiced
- 4 limes, sliced
- 2 oranges, sliced and quartered
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 cups tonic water
- 2 pitchers, or one very large pitcher
- food processor or blender
- large sieve
Thinly slice 4 limes and 2 oranges (I typically halve the lime slices and quarter the orange slices) and divide the fruit between two pitchers. Roughly chop a half cup of basil leaves and divide them between the two pitchers as well.
In the bowl of a food processor fit with a steel blade, puree 1 pound of watermelon until liquefied. Strain the water melon juice through a sieve into a large bowl and discard the pulp. Juice 5 limes directly into the bowl with the watermelon juice and add the cup of triple sec. Pour in the entire bottle of pinot grigio into the bowl with the juices and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Divide the liquid between the two pitchers and refrigerate for at least 5-6 hours giving the fruit and herbs a chance to infuse their flavor into the sangria.
Just before serving, pour 1 cup of tonic water into each pitcher for a little bit of added sweetness and an extra kick of fizz.
[side note: I was planning to only make a half batch (with a 750 mL bottle) but the woman at the liquor store pointed out to me that the “big bottle” was only $1 more. I went with it am sure glad I did because this sangria (as well as the classic red we made) disappeared fast! So even though this seems like a lot, I definitely recommend making the full batch!]
Original recipe–inspired by watermelon margaritas
Apologies for the dramatics… I just really love summer!!