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  • Susan Welsh

Sugar, salt, and the Jersey Shore

Summers at the shore have always tasted of salt and sugar--the saline lick on your lips from ocean spray, snowy powdered sugar atop crumb buns and donuts at Kohler's, steamers in garlicky, briny butter from Quahog's, and sweet creamy, dairy fresh scoops of Espresso Crunch from Sundae Best Ice Cream Parlor, or a Kohr Brothers chocolate custard in a sugar cone.

For me, the journey of this seven mile island begins in Avalon where I had my first taste of shoreline bliss during our one week stays in a one bedroom efficiency at the Whitebrier Hotel.

It's the days at the Whitebrier that mark a childhood. Our hours were measured in rounds of body surfing in the ocean and building drip castles in the sand, afternoons swimming in the hotel pool or shopping for t-shirts at Hoy's. We snacked on Doritos and Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer purchased from the vending machine on the third floor while our parents kept an eye on us from the poolside bar, drinking cocktails.

Now I've become more of a bay watch fan--content to sit on the porch of our rental home on Sunset Drive and watch the boats and the birds and the ripple of time pass before me. I'm happy to browse the newly re-opened Barrier Island Books and Art shop on 95th Street where I pick up another copy of one of my top ten favorite books My Ántonia. If you've never read it, go out immediately and grab yourself a copy, or borrow mine.

Steph and I walk the Farmer's Market on Sunday morning, tasting more of the salt and sugar of the island--bacon on a stick, coffee with coconut oil and grass-fed butter, pickles, and fresh from the farm produce. We eat sandwiches almost everyday at the lovely Yvette's Cafe-- ham and cornichon on French bread and the California BLT with bacon and avocado. We buy delicately smoked Castillo de Canena olive oil at Environ's Marketplace and chat up Maria Lisa about food and travel and the gorgeous writing of Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

A little more shopping, a little more salt, and a Duck Donut for the road on our way out of the island, homeward bound. Another ritual of summer passes. Another season begins. Back home, two days later, we watch the moon's passage across the sun from atop the Catholic cemetery during America's Great Eclipse 2017. The moon waxes and wanes, as does another summer in this old life.

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