August Already? Quintessential, Must-do Late Summer Activities

back-to-schoolShhhh! Do you hear that sound? Perhaps you feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

I’ll bet you can identify that sound; It’s the sound of school-aged children everywhere beginning the back-to-school lament:

It’s August — already?!?

Even if you love the beginning of the school year (and we do!), and the coming of the crisp weather (and apple pie and homemade chai, you know we do!), turn the calendar page to August and you realize, with heavy heart, that summer’s coming to a close, and you didn’t do all the exciting summertime stuff you had meant to do.

AugustThere’s still time!

We have a whole month to knock some entries off our “Quintessential End of Summer To-Do List.” With thirty-one days, we can certainly fit in at least a couple dozen of our favorite things!

So here, in no particular order, is our list of the things we want to make sure to squeeze in over the next month, before Labor Day brings an end to summer:

Baseball. What could be more quintessentially American? The Iowa high school boys’ baseball tournament is happening this week over at Principal Park, just a few blocks away. A $10 ticket gets you into the game, and gives you an opportunity to eat a ballpark-style hot dog — two of the things on our must-do summertime bucket list (see next item).  To see tournament brackets, get tickets, or see tournament results, check out the Iowa High School Baseball website.

Hot dogs (and pickle relish). Culturally imported from Germany and popularized in the UA, hot dogs were a working class street food, sold from mobile food stands that came to be associated with baseball and America. Eat them at the ballpark, eat them dipped in batter and deep-fried at the State Fair (see next item), or char them on the grill (see next-next item). Hot dogs are the iconic no-silverware summer food. We like ours with a dollop of homemade Pickle Relish.

2014_Iowa_State_FairThe Iowa State Fair. Considered by many (by non-Iowans, even!) to be the best state fair in the US, the Iowa State Fair was ranked the “#2 choice for summer fun in America,” topping New York City’s Times Square, Cedar Point Amusement Park Resort in Ohio and even Disneyland. Thousand-pound pigs, square-dancing tractors, deep-fried everything on a stick and all manner of contests (including AllSpice’s sponsored cooking competitions!) make the State Fair a must-do activity every August. Get inspired while you peruse the list of the recipes awarded State Fair blue ribbons by AllSpice, check our recipes section.

Rory_Amy_State_FairGrilling. We’ve already talked a lot about grilling this (and every) summer, but grilling is one of the best things about summer. It is the yin and yang of cooking: indulging our inner chef by crafting gourmet marinades and rubs vs encouraging our inner cave dweller with simple, elemental meat and fire.  Grill in your backyard, grill at the campsite or the park, just get out there and grill, people. Grilling ideas, tips and recipes here.

Picnic. Speaking of picnics, you should go on one. PBJ’s and juice boxes will do in a pinch, but crafting a thoughtful dinner-in-a-basket (complete with checkered tablecloth) is one of summer’s lovely pleasures. Get some fancy bread, fruit and cheese at the gourmet store, and knock yourself out making the salads, sides, and dessert. Lots of good ideas under the picnic tag here, or just browse the salad recipes and dessert recipes.

Camping. Like a picnic, but you can legitimately go to sleep after you have your big outdoor meal. Highly recommended.

Road trip. Load up your favorite tunes and grab a map (or a mobile map app) and hit the lonely highway. Take along a friend, so it’s not so lonely. Make sure you have plenty of snacks for the drive, so you can enjoy the scenery with a happy tummy. Snack recipes indexed here, and a big list of just our snack mix recipes here.

cookout-anyoneDrinks on the patio. If you’re going to be outdoors on a warm summer day (or evening), be sure to have something cool and lovely to drink while you’re doing it. Mix up something wicked and wonderful on from this list of beverage recipes.

Sweet corn / corn on the cob. A late start to the planting and growing season in 2014 means that Iowa sweet corn is just beginning to reach its most delicious and plentiful potential as August begins. Slice corn off the cob and make it into pickles or whip up a batch of spicy corn and bean salsa. Grill the corn right on the cob (right in the husk!) and serve whole, with a spicy compound butter.

dill-pickles_Preparedness_adviceThe more things we’ve added to this list, the more things we remembered that we wanted to make sure to do before August is over!

  • Use the fresh basil, plentiful from the garden (or the Farmers’ Market), in a Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella + fresh basil leaves + sliced tomatoes), a pitcher of Basil Lemonade, or in a big vat of Basil Pesto.
  • Pickles! Super easy: Vegetables + Spices + Vinegar. Here’s how to make your own.
  • Celebrating the delicious, and the possibly borderline obscene. August has a lot of fun food holidays, including celebrations of watermelon, chocolate chip cookies, zucchini, and waffles (just in the next couple of days!).  There are also some questionably tasteful (but assuredly tasty) ones, like Grab Some Nuts Day on August 3. Find the whole August Food Holiday list here.

Photo credits: back to school