As temperatures across the island soar, the only thing hotter than the weather is the beautiful sight of charcoal winking gingerly from beneath the BBQ’s grill. Well, that and the metal part of your seatbelt that removes half of the skin on your hand when you go to buckle up. But as your evening routine slowly becomes a blur of travels across the island for a different BBQ every other night, one person is bound to douse more than just the physical flames when they whip out fruit instead of the dessert they were asked to bring.
Honestly, let’s not beat around the bush here. I don’t care how many times you tapped it before you bought it, or the weird technique you used to sniff the watermelon’s gooch in the middle of LIDL’s aisle – if you think it’s socially acceptable to turn up with an edible bowling ball instead of the dessert you were asked to bring, you’re soon going to find yourself friendless.
While some who agree with this bold and brave statement may be tempted to call watermelon the summer Panettone (what with it being such a heavy disappointment at the end every dinner) that may be taking things a little too far, primarily because watermelon actually does taste nice. The problems start to arise when it is misused as a full-on final course, rather than an aide to it. It also can’t be a summer Panettone because Panetonne is inherently drier than toilet paper and watermelon is 50% water in name, and over 90% in chemical components.
But back to the matter at hand, all it takes to change the look on everyone’s face when you bring out a fruit large enough to accidentally kill nanna’s chihuahua if it rolls off the table, is the quick purchase of a large tub of ice cream from your local convenience store right before the event.
As with the too-tall dessert that will be not be given any more air time in this post, the number one reason watermelon is found at every BBQ is not because of its taste, but rather because it has become an expected part of the evening.
Tradition over sense, a common sentiment on our islands.
Ironically, the same older generation that would have you shamed for not taking a third slice off the overburdened plate being passed around the folding plastic table, are the same family members who would convince you that accidentally swallowing watermelon seeds (which are notoriously hard to avoid, yet another con) would result in disaster and ruptured internal organs as a plant grew inside your stomach.
This fear-based relationship has ensured annual watermelon sales remain high throughout the season, and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark to suspect there may be some Citrullus Lanatus Mafia pulling the strings in the background.
As we get ready to begin a third week of No-Plastic July (doesn’t really have the same poetic nature as No-Shave November, does it?) the most important ‘artificial extra’ we need to get rid of in our life is the misconception that a fruit, unless altered by baking, can ever fully be considered as a dessert.
In Malta, the right combination of laziness and tradition has seen watermelons taking centre stage as the one-stop purchase to say: “I made an effort for the group”. But it’s not too late to have the island’s greatest minds cook up a summer version of the figolla that is more than just a slice of bloated plant ovary.
So while Nancy and Peter map it all out, we’re going to drill a hole in the watermelons we’ve got stacked from our never-to-be-invited-again guests and use them exactly as God intended: the perfect container and distributor for two large bottles of vodka.
It can be done and is not just an urban myth.