Intellectually, I understand the appeal of the seedless watermelon.
Developed as a sweet, juicy, melon without the hassle of all those dark seeds, the seedless watermelon has become much more popular in the last several years. (More than half of all melons grown in California are now seedless, melon growers there say. )
Like I said, I understand why. They are usually just as flavorful as a traditional melon, though a bit smaller. (Those cute little “personal watermelons” you see this time of year? They’re generally seedless, too.) And they’re not as messy to eat. Technically speaking, a seedless watermelon does have some seeds, but they are those small, white, edible seeds, not those big, tough, inedible watermelon seeds that you have to either carefully pick out or, if you’re willing and able, you can spit.
And there you have it – my emotional resistance to seedless watermelons.
You see, every summer, at the hottest time possible, more than 100 of my closest and dearest family members would converge on a tiny town in Mississippi close to the Louisiana border for our annual family reunion. People would bring blankets and folding chairs and set up shop underneath any patch of shade they could find. A long string of picnic tables in a far corner would slowly fill up with covered dishes as the day grew older. We always knew to look for Aunt Emmer’s squash casserole, Odie’s light-as-air biscuits, Mamaw’s chicken & dumplings, and Aunt Pauline’s famous cakes.
And there would always be a little red wagon overflowing with watermelons.
And that was the source of the one reunion ritual seemed to both fascinate and revile me – the watermelon seed spitting contest. Kids and adults alike would step up and seed-spit themselves silly. Bragging rights would last a year or more. Some years, there were legendary maneuvers. Other years, there were legendary lengths achieved. One year, a passing car was hit. I watched from a safe distance.
By the end of the contest, most of us were as full as tics, and the packing up would begin. Watermelon rinds would be pitched over a fence for the chickens. Another reunion was over. The planning for next year would already be under way.
So, sure, I see why you might prefer seedless watermelon, especially for your children, or if you plan to eat them inside, not on the edge of a pasture. But without old-fashioned seeded watermelons, my memories of those long-ago reunions wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.