My friend, Cyndy, said I had to try Lucky’s Market in Ellisville.
“The place just opened recently,” she said. “It’s a Boulder-based grocery that specializes in affordable food, much of it organic.”
What caught my eye upon entering the spacious, well-lighted store was the colorful produce section. Women were hovering over several bins of small, oval-shaped watermelons on sale for 98 cents each. (The price went to 3 lbs. for a $1 the next day. Oh, the perils of inflation.)
“You must be having a watermelon party,” I said jokingly.
“I wasn’t planning to, but now I am.”
Every cart in the checkout line had at least one melon. I got one and so did Cyndy, but not before we performed the ripeness test. When it comes to melon selection, it turns out that Cyndy is a “thumper” while I am a “stem and belly checker.” I check to see if the stem end is cratered—an “inny” rather than an “outy” to show it fell off the vine voluntarily. And you want a splotch on the belly. That is, the underside should have a creamy yellow spot, not one that’s white or green.
I left the thumping to Cyndy. I don’t have a good ear for sound, but the old timers say a ripe watermelon sounds hollow when thumped, not too high-pitched. The sound of b-flat. My friend began pounding a couple of melons like bongo drums and declared them both ripe.
My father was a “plugger”—always insisting that the seller at Eastern Market in Washington cut a small triangular piece from the melon as a sample. I was tempted to ask the checkout clerk to plug my watermelon, but feared being escorted out of the store by a security guard and embarrassing Cyndy.
The watermelon encounter at Lucky’s Market brought back memories of my youth. In the summer, he would get a melon for the family’s Saturday night card game at our house. My great-uncle and aunt would come over for an evening of Pitch (seems we also called the game Setback.) In the Paleolithic age–before television–we spent the evening, laughing, storytelling, and snacking. There was no booze in deference to my uncle, who was a recovering alcoholic. My mother would often make a chocolate cake, but the melon was the pièce de résistance and some time was spent scrutinizing it for sweetness, seediness and color.
Even now, selecting and eating a watermelon brings back memories of earlier times and simpler pleasures.
Update: How was the melon I bought at Lucky’s? Perfect! The best I’ve had this year. And seedless.
Lucky’s Market, 15830 Fountain Plaza Drive, Ellisville. Open: 7 days a week, 7a – 10p. Another Missouri store is upcoming in Rock Hill in addition to the one already in Columbia, MO.