Celestial Feasting, Fete-ing on the Solstice

On Sunday at 1:45 a.m. ET (or Saturday night at 10:45 p.m. if you’re on the west coast), the sun arrives at its most northernmost point and briefly stands still before moving in the other direction. All this celestial activity results in the longest day of the year, also known as the summer solstice. In fact, the word solstice comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and stitium (to stand still).

If the weather cooperates, I highly recommend spending as much time outdoors, celebrating the energy of the sun. Here in Seattle, I plan to attend the 21st annual Solstice Parade in Fremont, an event that promises great merriment, food, drink (and rumor has it) naked bicyclists.

In the course of my research, I’ve learned festivities will be carrying on from coast to cast, including an all-night party in Philly, a museum hootenanny in Cleveland, yoga sun salutations in New York’s Time Square as well as a 4:30 a.m. concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

As for food and drink, I’m thinking anything sun kissed, from wine (gotta love those crushed grapes) to mangoes, which my brother reports are low-hanging fruit in southern Florida at the moment. Remember, those in-season strawberries are fiery red because of the sun, as are those Bing cherries. There’s no better day to fill up with raw fruit and vegetables as a celestial tribute.

I asked Seattle nutritionist and astrologer Stephanie Gailing for solstice menu recommendations.

She writes: “Honor the sun by enjoying foods that are under its domain (in astrology, planets are related to different foods/plants/animals). So enjoy from a cornucopia of citrus fruit, walnuts, olives, olive oil, sunflower seeds and herbs/spices such as calendula and saffron. Also grapes and wine.”

Gailing agrees that it’s great to “acknowledge the power of the life that the sun yields by eating raw foods” but to also consider “the power of its associated fire by eating cooked foods.” Hmm. The menu is starting to come together: a big fruit salad, a wood-fired risotto with saffron, plenty of sangria, or a pitcher of lemonade. Campfire, anyone?

One person who is sure to build a fire for the celebration is Stephen Cochenour, a horticulture student and farm intern at Colorado State University who is chronicling his organic farming experiences in Field and Table.

My wife and I (in our late 20's) are planning our first summer solstice celebration. My wife's birthday is on the 23rd, so it will be a combined celebration. Our families, while we were growing up, never celebrated holidays with cultural expressions handed down generation to generation, so we have tried to adopt some of them on our own.

I've got a good deal of Scandinavian blood in me, so we often look back to Norway and Sweden to see what fun things we can bring back to life. Both Norwegians and Swedes love to celebrate the Solstice. The Norwegians have an old saying that goes something like: "As high as you jump over the Sankt Hans Bil (aka Saint John's bonfires), so high will the grain grow in the coming year.

Finding this tradition is pretty exciting since I have started interning at a farm. We're hoping that the saying extends into other crops too, because we would really love to see giant radishes burst forth from our garden soil next year. The Swedes have a tradition of participating in a communal bath as a way to guarantee rain for their crops. We might put that tradition on hold until next year.

Careful during that fire dance, Stephen!

How do you celebrate the longest day of the year? Please share all menus, traditions and other forms of merriment to honor the sun.

Correction: The original version of this post stated that Stephen Cochenour is an organic farmer in Ontario, Canada, connected with the Tiny Farm Blog. Cochenour is actually a farmer and student in Colorado writing Field and Table. We apologize for the confusion.

P.S.: Today's the last day to sign up for the Eating Down the Fridge Honor Roll! E-mail me with your city, state (and country, if applicable) and your name will be included. Starting Monday, we'll have guest bloggers from around the country and from as far as Poland.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 19, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Summer
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some more news and info about the parade:

Posted by: d4rkhelmet | June 21, 2009 12:33 PM

Our solstice dinner was sancocho, a Latin American stew. We have a wonderful children's book, El Sancocho del Sabado. It starts off with a little girl (Maria) who loves to go to her grandparents for sancocho every Saturday. Unfortunately, they don't have enough money to buy anything that day and only have a dozen eggs in the house. So, the grandmother tells her daughter to take two baskets and put the eggs in one of them. Some serious horse trading ensues for plantains, yuca, corn, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, and carrots. Not to mention salt and cumin. Finally, they have everything but the most important ingredient: pollo (chicken)! So, Abuelita has Maria divide everything into two baskets and trades one of them for a chicken.

The story is charming and the dish sounded good and hearty, so I decided it would make a perfect solstice meal. A rich broth develops during the cooking and the combination with onions and a lot of cilantro gives the dish a distinct flavor. My 3 1/2 year old twins couldn't get enough of it.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 21, 2009 11:20 PM

our summer solstice celebration here on the East Coast in Rappahannock County, VA was on Turkey Mountain in Sperryville, facing the Blue Ridge and the setting sun with an incredible dinner in the field cooked by Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve.

Totally magical.

Details here: http://www.laughingduckgardens.com/ldblog.php/2009/06/21/summer-solstice-on-turkey-mountain/

and pictures here:


Posted by: rowandk | June 22, 2009 4:47 PM

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