I make it a habit to stop at every lemonade stand I spot. It's not just that I still recall the thrill of customers patronizing my own childhood stands, or that I can't resist making some kid's day. Those are both strong motivating factors. But ultimately, I just love the stuff. On a sweltering summer day, nothing's tastier or more thirst-quenching.
A little research reveals that I'm just one of a long history of lemonade lovers. The Crusaders discovered the lemon, a native of Asia, in Palestine and spread lemonade throughout the Christian world. And it's been reported that in 1492, Queen Isabella served Christopher Columbus a cold glass of lemonade while chatting about his voyage. Smitten, he then brought lemon seeds on one of his journeys to the Caribbean, from which they eventually made their way to what is now Florida. They still grow there, although most of the US lemon supply is from California.
These days, the powdered-mix and frozen-concentrate varieties have squeezed out fresh lemonade. Not that this is necessarily bad. It keeps business at the roadside stand humming along without interruption. If Mom is in the kitchen halving and squeezing mountains of lemons for little Sammy to sell to parched commuters, it could be a long wait between pitchers.
I've been there, done that. That was my son's first lemonade stand. I refused to lower my standards and take shortcuts. No more.
We still make the real thing for ourselves. And I'm forever on the hunt for new variations. I've found that every lemonade lover has strong opinions about how to make the perfect batch of this refreshing summer drink. Some prefer it on the tart side, others sweet. Some argue for using granulated sugar vs. sugar syrup, others about fizzy or nonfizzy water. But all agree that seasonal fruits, especially berries, can make an ordinary lemonade sublime.
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