Watermelon Roulette

Here’s the thing about watermelon: it’s both the best and worst of summer treats – the best when it’s sweet, juicy, and pip-lite, the worst when it’s, well, not.

Here’s another thing about watermelon: each one is a gamble, a crapshoot, a white-knuckle round of roulette that is just as likely to drape the annual family picnic in a disappointingly tasteless pall as it is to launch the collective tastebuds into a surprisingly savory orbit.

[NB: Yes, my metaphors are mixed. Further, they break all the the rules of “write what you know” for I gamble not, live still, and embrace earth’s familiar solidity. That’s blogging for you.]

[NB2: Another thing about watermelon: it’s one of those weird countable and non-countable nouns, depending on the context. “I like watermelon” is okay but “I like banana” is not. “I grow watermelon” and “I grow watermelons” are equally acceptable (though I don’t). “There will be hotdogs, beans, chips, and watermelon at the picnic” works. So does, “There will be hotdogs, beans, chips, and watermelons at the picnic,” though it sounds weird in the plural. That’s English for you.]

Like so many others, I was taught that a well-delivered thunk on its thick rind was a foolproof way to pick a watermelon. If the thunk rings hollow, grab it. If not, ignore it. Just exactly what a hollow thunk sounds like has always been a bit vague to me.

After having delivered countless thunks with my knuckles to the rinds of countless watermelons, here’s the truth: the thunk test is rot half the time. Some hollow-sounding thunks result in breathtaking deliciousness. Others – last week’s for example – result in something with all the taste and texture of styrofoam soaked in formaldehyde and lemon extract.

[NB: I’ve never actually tasted styrofoam soaked in formaldehyde and lemon extract, but sometimes imaginative hyperbole is the only literary device that will do. That’s creative non-fiction for you.]

Watermelon is (watermelons are?) just about the biggest fruitified mystery of my life. Bananas are easy. Apples too. Grapes can be tested (surreptitiously). Berries can be doused in sugar if need be. But those watermelons (countable noun) are out to get me 5 times out of 10.

In gambling, those might be good odds. At a fruit stand, they stink, unless (fingers crossed) the thunk is a winner in which case the sweet smell of success is matched only by the sweet smell and taste of melon.

3 thoughts on “Watermelon Roulette

  1. Topher August 13, 2012 / 12:30 pm

    I was recently told to look for watermelons that had more white on the bottom -zip this supposedly shows that they were left in the field longer, allowing them more time to ripen. I have not been able to test this theory yet, but it’s worth a shot.

    • ckirgiss August 13, 2012 / 12:50 pm

      Hmmm, this sounds like something my grandma would have said. She was pretty smart. Maybe a hollow thunk plus white-on-the-bottom is the winning ticket.

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