Keeping Cool Under the Dome

Just adding my bone fides…

As noted in the last post, it’s hot here. I live in Central Virginia, in Richmond, named for another city with seven hills across the pond. And it is for those of my readers abroad that this post is intended.

You may not think of Virginia as being “in the South” the way that you think of, say, Louisiana, or Georgia, but we get the breezes. And the breezes are hot and humid.

Go ahead and read the “Today:” part of the forecast on the screenshot from my phone. I’ll translate. The high will be 36ºC with a heat index of 40ºC. And, the air conditioning in my car has just gone on the blink.

Now, as I understand it, some of you all will be living under a heat dome lovingly called “Lucifer” for a bit. I’m sorry. So, I thought I might pass on a little Colonial wisdom for dealing with hazy, hot, and humid.

Let’s start with yesterday’s post. Cold foods are your friend. Gazpacho, vichyssoise, cold roast chicken, salad, Tortilla Española, smoothies and anything else that can be eaten cold or at room temperature are the ticket. Weirdly, hot tea, coffee, and spicy foods are standard in hot countries, the idea being to break a sweat and let the breezes cool you off. I’m happier with a cold drink, but I’m Southern, and besides, the humidity doesn’t let perspiration evaporate very well. Staying hydrated is important, add electrolytes to water to make sports drinks, just stay away from sugar unless you really need the energy and will burn it off quickly. Herbal teas (iced in my case) are good changes of pace, sparkling water, lemonades (the Indian version that adds a bit of salt is good for when things turn sweaty), and of course, iced tea. To make an Arnold Palmer, mix up half a glass of lemonade over ice and pour in a half glass of iced tea. Sweeten to taste.

Now we turn to what to wear. Loose, open weave clothing and technical fabrics have served me very well.

Shirts in linen, or airy weaves in light cotton are great. Linen actually releases moisture better than cotton, though. I’m also a fan of Sunspel’s Riviera polos and, to a lesser extent because of the (small amount of) visible branding, Mack Weldon’s Vesper and DryKnit polos. Don’t forget Uniqlo’s AIRism polos, either! (And their boxers and undershirts, too, if you’re forced to wear an undershirt.) I’ve worn this stuff from Israel to Florida and it works.

Trousers are the more difficult part if you can’t stand to look wrinkled, as “guaranteed to wrinkle linen” (my tailor’s term) is my go-to for shorts and trousers. If you can get them with side adjusters and avoid the belt, so much the better. Other options include wool frescos, tropical weight wool and seersucker. Lightweight chinos/poplin khakis are fine, but make sure they’re not too tightly cut. The key here is to let air circulate as much as possible to help keep you dry.

If you can go sockless, do, otherwise, I like to wear lightweight merino since it wicks moisture where cotton won’t.

Suits and sports coats should be unlined and made from the lightweight stuff and open weaves, think lighter colours, too.

Choose unlined suede shoes whenever possible. Woven leather shoes work almost as well for me. Leather soles always breathe better than rubber.

When all else fails, take another cool shower and reach for plenty of Gold Bond Body Powder. For instructions on application, pour yourself a lemonade or iced tea and watch Frank Sinatra as Pvt. Angelo Maggio get ready for liberty in “From Here to Eternity”.

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“Guess-pacho”

(Sorry for the lack of photo. I used all my raw ingredients before I thought to post about this.)

To quote Neil Simon’s “Biloxi Blues”, again, “It’s hot. It’s like Africa hot. If it’s going to be this hot, I’m not sure I can stay.”

Whew! We are in the dog days here in Central VA. Hot and humid and even after a normal dog walk of 2 miles, followed by a brief burst of calisthenics, I’m dripping and enervated. The last thing I want to do is cook anything. Even the toaster/broiler/little convection oven is throwing off too much heat in the kitchen. But, I’m still hungry. So while I cooled down from the walk, I chopped up some leftover vegetables and threw them in the blender with some liquids. Voila! A sort of gazpacho for breakfast. (Full disclosure: my mom brought an incredible batch of the real stuff made from a recipe from the Heart in Hand restaurant cookbook to the beach this year. That’s why it was foremost in mind.)

I say “sort of” since this isn’t the official recipe. I just guessed about ratios and what to add. It doesn’t use bread, I am out of basil, and I had a Serrano pepper that made it into the mix along with a little Splenda. But, it was fast, easy, delicious, and best of all, cold.

Easy’s Breakfast Guess-pacho

Two anemic looking ribs of celery

A handful of frozen cherry tomatoes

About half a green pepper, seeded and chopped

Maybe a 1/4 of a cucumber, peeled

A bit (again, a 1/4 of a medium?) of red onion, chopped

1 Serrano pepper (or use some hot sauce)

A shake of garlic salt (or a small clove, peeled.)

A couple of shakes of dried oregano

A good grind of black pepper and a little salt

A really generous slosh or more of olive oil

A glass of tomato juice (V-8, Bloody Mary Mix, whatever you’ve got)

A generous pour of red wine vinegar

1 packet of Splenda.

Blend all the ingredients together, thin with water if necessary, and serve in a tall glass.

(Pro Tip: if you have leftovers, thin a bit more with water, add horseradish and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Presto! Bloody Mix.)

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The Wisdom of Wodehouse at Times Like These

At the beginning of the spring, and just starting to come up for air.

Is it really mid-July? It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything and that’s because of where I find myself in the world. Not literally, but more meta-physically. Or maybe ontologically. Epistemologically? At any rate, what I mean to say is that for the longest time following the extreme events of last summer, I couldn’t think of anything relating to my subject that seemed at all important, or even relevant, to write about.

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?’

The mood will pass, sir.”

? P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters

Well, I suppose the mood has passed and I’m coming out of whatever it was that possessed me to start taking things too seriously that should be considered lightly and vice versa. Especially since I’ve taken to only skimming the headlines with the GroundNews app and that, for the moment, there have been no mobs rampaging up and down my neighborhood.

I don’t know about the state of things sartorially. Around town, I see little evidence of people “dressing up,” but I’m not in the business district. Perhaps that will change when we go to the theatre. I do think that the pandemic induced quarantines may have accelerated the trend towards a more casual way of dressing, sort of what we saw living in the South of France.

I do know, however, that putting on a coat and tie, shaving and striding into Can Can in leather soled shoes had a tremendous effect on my mood.

… and days later. (Photo credit: The Architect.)

I’m not always in full fig, suited and booted. It is high summer in Central Virginia and hazy, hot and humid is the order of the day. More often than not, I am in a mix of tailored and casual with lots of linen and open weaves thrown into the mix. At times like these a little bit of effort goes a long way.

“What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this?

There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.”

– P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Impending Doom

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