Beautiful, semi-autobiographical novel written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1957. This evocative and nostalgic (but almost plotless) book details the Summer of 1928 in a small town in Illinois, focusing on a boy named Douglas Spaulding.

Bradbury's writing is extremely rich and very sensory-oriented: the reader will get the feeling that he or she knows, from the writing alone, exactly what fox grapes smell like, what new sneakers feel like, what homemade lemonade tastes like on a hot day, what an old baseball glove smells like, what it's like to be afraid of the dark for no good reason, what a caterpillar feels like when it crawls on your arm, what it's like to get up early in the morning just to watch the world wake up...

It's also, sometimes, a scary and sad book. Bradbury's thoughts, even at their most optimistic, never stray too far from the darkness, and even Douglas Spaulding's perfect summer is marred by fear and panics, by failed magics, by loss and death. Douglas begins the novel by realizing, for the first time, that he's alive, and the downside of that is learning about mortality.

More than likely, no one ever had a summer this wonderful as a child, but it's the summer that we all should have had. It's most fun to read this book in the dead of winter -- You can almost feel the snow melting around you as you read...

Dandelion Wine

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 quarts dandelion heads
  • 3 pounds white sugar
  • 4 oranges
  • 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • 1 package wine yeast

This recipe makes a pleasant dandelion wine. It is important that the flowers be picked in sunshine at midday when they are fully opened and that the making of the wine should be started immediately.

In a large (very large) kettle bring the water to a boil. Measure the yellow heads, discarding as much green as possible without being too anal. Put flowers in a large plastic container that has been thoroughly cleaned and pour the boiling water over them. Cover and let steep for two days. Be careful not to exceed this time or a strange and curious odor will set in. As you may or may not know, a strange and curious odor kinda ruins a nice table wine.

Pour the water and flowers back into the kettle. Add rinds from the 4 oranges (remove all the white pith) and boil for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve lined with very fine cheesecloth. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. When the mixture is cool, add the yeast nutrient, juice of the 4 oranges, and the yeast.

Pour into a fermentation jar and fit the trap. Your fermentation jar can be a gallon jug, glass or plastic, but you must be sure it is cleaned thoroughly in hot water before use. The fermentation trap can be obtained from any store that sells wine-making materials.

When the wine has cleared, siphon off into clean bottles with a plastic hose. Make sure the hose does not pick up any deposit from the bottom. To avoid this, attach the hose to a stick longer than the jar is tall, so that 3 inches of the stick will protrude beyond the end of your hose.

Dandelion wine is best enjoyed with poultry.

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