Dick Wolfsie: Slice of life


I have something in common with Mark Twain. He was a brilliant writer, an international raconteur and the greatest humorist of his time.

OK, it’s none of those things: it’s our shared love of watermelon.

Twain once said that watermelon was the food of angels. I agree. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the sugary, watery treat. When I discovered there were seedless varieties, I was thrilled, but that ended my spitting career—which had just started to take off.

Here’s an excerpt of one of Twain’s tales, which includes a reference to his favorite snack.

“When I was a boy, I spied a cart full of watermelons. I snitched one, ran into an alley and sunk my teeth into it. Then a strange feeling came over me. Without a moment’s hesitation, I walked back to the vendor’s cart and replaced that melon—and took a ripe one.”

Watermelon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. I don’t know who else is in this family, but I am looking forward to meeting them (or should I say “eating” them?) Watermelon is chock full of antioxidants that can destroy free radicals, and while I have no idea what that means, it does sound like something I would be in favor of.

In our basement refrigerator, I keep a stash of all my guilty pleasures. Mary Ellen forbids huge jars of pickles, six packs of beer, and giant bottles of Mr. and Mrs. T’s Bloody Mary Mix in our upstairs fridge. But most of the space in the downstairs Amana is often taken up by a split Black Diamond watermelon, each half on its own shelf. In each section, I stick a spoon and whenever I am so inclined, I sneak downstairs and enjoy a mouthful of pure enjoyment. I am not the neatest eater, so the juices often drip onto the basement floor, and the result looks like a murder scene after an unsuccessful cleanup of the evidence.

By the way, why is a watermelon-based dessert seldom on a menu? There’s peach cobbler and cherries jubilee and apple pie. But a big crisp wedge of watermelon? I’ve never seen it. Here’s an offer: After you dine at a restaurant, forego dessert and come to my house. I’ll give you your own spoon and lead you down the stairs to my treats. Enjoy. But don’t slip!

Watermelon is about 92 percent water. When Mary Ellen and I were dating, I took her on a picnic. I knew she wasn’t a big beer drinker so I brought along some nice cold watermelon slices and encouraged her to try one. “Why, Dick Wolfsie,” she said, “I do think you are trying to hydrate me!”

Here’s an interesting watermelon factoid I found online. In 2019, scientists studied 300 obese people. Half consumed two cups of watermelon and the other half ate two low-fat cookies daily for eight weeks. Two months later, everyone was still overweight.

More trivia: Watermelon seeds were found strewn all over the floor in the tomb of Tutankhamun—proof that even a pharaoh had trouble finding good help 4,000 years ago.

The heaviest watermelon ever grown was 350 pounds. I would have loved to have owned that giant marvel of delight, but to sort of quote Chief Brody in the movie Jaws, “Hey, Dick, you’re gonna need a bigger fridge.”