the simple joys of late august

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We don’t have fireflies in Texas. This makes me sad for Lone Star children everywhere. It makes me sad for me, even. Because what’s summer without badminton, pitchers of sweet tea, and magical bugs that resemble burning embers at a campfire?

Nothing beats a plated Jersey tomato, kosher salt, a big fat chiffonade of basil, Olio Santo olive oil, and 12-year barrel-aged balsamic vinegar from Modena–trust me. It’s simple, but such a summer pleasure. Now’s the time to skin your tomatoes, pass them through a food mill, and freeze up a few batches of sauce to enjoy in the butt-crack of winter. And nothing is better matched with raw tomatoes than my favorite wine: Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Second place is a Gewurztraminer from Pfalz or even a dry Vouvray with a touch of sugar. It’s because tomatoes are a fruit with high acidity, so you need a wine with high acidity to make a good match. Adding more kosher salt to the tomatoes lowers the acidity.

And then there are pleasures we can only enjoy now: a Late Harvest Sylvaner wine. I’m all over it. In particular, I love semi-sparkling (frizzante) wines.

A YEAR AGO: End of Summer Salad

3 YEARS AGO: USO Behaving Badly

5 YEARS AGO: Bullshite, Florence



  1. Yes, we do have fireflies here in Texas every year, even here in Austin so don’t be sad. They require more moisture than we’ve had this summer of endless drought although they were out in force in May. Sorry you and the littles ones missed them. You have another chance next spring. I love them and grew up putting them in jars, running away from the boys who would squish then down their arms making a florescent streak. Lightening bugs is the other name we use.

  2. We do indeed have fireflies in Texas. Tons of them every evening at dusk. SO how about instead you don’t have them in your backyard in Austin.

    1. Author

      Agreed. None in my yard. Instead, I get scorpions and tarantulas. Hope you’re feeling well, and still think of you as the girl with the pillow case purse… in a good way.

      1. I would scream so loud & long if the critters that roam your range crossed my path. I was drinking a Frizzante Prosecco last night and I had to give a shout out to you. You have to try Rive Della Chiesa Frizzante Prosecco. At 15 clams a bottle its Le cheap. Knock it back super cold or make YOU GONNA GET LUCKY Bellini’s for the Porch crew. Take it up a notch and pair it with Sottoceneve truffle cheese and you will rant to yourself of your own fabulousness. If you wanna really get wacky and cannonball into a pool of drool, order Crucolo off of online {if you cant hunt it down in Austin} Its just dirty good. I used to think that nothing beat a Louisiana tomato, but I had a Jersey tomato a few years back and it was wicked { lets hear it for the wolf peach- what it was called at its inception}. PS- To further outrage you- the pillowcase bag as been retired. I am all bout rocking the purse I made from lawn chair nylon straps. You know… the old ones that folded with the supa tacky poly nylon woven seating. ;)

  3. Don’t want to be redundant, but Texans are protective and proud– we totally have fireflies. :) Hope y’all get to see some soon!

  4. What New Zealand sauvignon blanc do you recommend? I’ve recently discovered one and I love, love, love it… It’s Kirkland, from Costco, which cracks me up but it’s not expensive and I swear it’s really good. Just curious what your favorite is… if it’s the same or if there is another one I should be looking for. I’m from Oregon, though… so it’s always fun to discover yummy local wines as well. Thanks!

  5. We DO have them here! I live in Dallas and they’re all over near White Rock Lake, and I’ve seen them down there near Ladybird Lake and in Lakeway at a friend’s MIL’s around the pool. Where I also unfortunately saw bats. Eating the fireflies. While we were in the pool.

    1. Well, Sarah, in Austin, bats are celebrated. You know they eat lots more mosquitos than anything else. The fireflies have sacrificed themselves for the greater good. Yay bats!

        1. Got it. I don’t blame you. I broke my head once, running away from a bat in the handball court. As my grandad used to say, “They might not hurt you, but they can make you hurt yourself.” Did you ever hear that they get tangled in your hair? I don’t think they do, but just the thought makes me shudder.

  6. I’m all about salted jersey tomatoes, but just FYI: table salt is neither acidic nor alkaline, and therefore will not make your tomatoes any more or less acidic, just more salty.

  7. My favorite is to slice the tomatoes crosswise, put a sliver of fresh mozzarella and a big ole basil leaf, then drizzle over it great aged Modena balsamic and the best olive oil you can find. Definitely the joys of August. In fact, I’ll be picking up some nice heirloom tomatoes, hopefully Cherokee Purple, and fresh mozarella from the farmer’s market in the morning. Sat. dinner has been this dish to begin for most of July and August. Yum. I’ll have to try the sprinkling of salt on it.

  8. Jersey tomatoes aren’t what they used to be. The flavor has been bred out of them in an attempt to preserve shape and longevity. An effort has been made to bring back the flavor, but so far it isn’t happening. Actually, the best tomatoes I’ve eaten this summer were from a farm in Colorado and were organic. Here in Pennsylvania, the smaller ones from a local farm are better than the nearby Jerseys, but their larger tomatoes are just as tasteless.

  9. We saw ONE firefly in our backyard in Austin a few years back, so keep hoping! I was delighted, having enjoyed fireflies on our farm in Virginia for years.

  10. I am living in Florida and miss fireflies tremendously.. I am from the northeast, and grew up catching them and associating them with SUMMER.

    I have never seen as many as I saw while living in Chicago.. there were so many, I felt like I was in Peter Pan or something ;)

  11. I’m so glad some Texans piped up about the fireflies. My boyfriend grew up in Texas and they do indeed have fireflies – or lightning bugs, if you prefer.

    And as a truck driver, I can personally tell you that cruising through Texas I have often sadly had one or two land on my windshield, leaving a glob that leaves a weird glow for at least a mile…

  12. I spent a couple of weeks in Italy last summer and found myself constantly consuming their white frizzante table wine at every restaurant I went to. It was cheap, delicious and inexpensive. When I got back to Austin, I searched and searched for something similar, but most people looked at me with a blank expression on their faces when I described what I wanted.
    We went to a bar-b-que at a friend’s house a while back and they served my new summer favorite- it’s a wine called Santola Vinho Verde from Portugal. It’s a little bubbly, not overpowering and refreshing for this hot ass Texas weather!
    I try to always have a bottle in the fridge now and even my non wine consuming friends have turned into lovers of this wine as well. Plus, it’s super cheap at $6.95 per bottle at Central Market. Makes me feel like I’m back in Italy on the Mediterranean Coast and I don’t feel guilty about drinking all of our money away!

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