IT'S GOING TO BE a hot one. It's not even 10 a.m., and the sun is beating down on the asphalt at South Shore/Towne Centre. I'm standing next to my car in the parking lot outside OfficeMax, about to go in and copy the third-grade newsletter. With articles like "Designing a Zoo" and "Room 2 Students Look Into Their Futures," it'll be a yearbook for the hardworking 8- and 9-year-old scribes.
"Nice column last week," calls J.B., an Alameda mother of two, over the hoods of our cars.
"I'm always looking for ideas," I say.
"I'm making tabouli for dinner," she says. "How's that for something to write about?"
"Bulgur?" I say.
"Right," she says. "It's a good hot day meal. I still need to get mint and parsley."
Inside OfficeMax the clerk, Jan, patiently helps me figure out how to get the pages of the third-graders' project to align correctly: 1 and 2 and 23 and 24 on the same 11-by-17 sheet. She says she likes to barbecue on hot days.
"I just don't want to be inside," she says.
Her co-worker, Jasmine, who just moved back to the Bay Area after a short try at Georgia, says she prefers to dine out.
"I don't want to be anywhere near the kitchen," she says. "I don't want to be cutting anything up."
In Alameda, spring and fall can be so hot.
At the post office — postage just went from 41 to 42 cents — Noreen says she likes to beat the heat with Chinese chicken salad. She uses iceberg lettuce, water chestnuts, green onions, shredded chicken and tops it off with a dressing of rice vinegar with sesame and olive oil.
"The kids love it," says Noreen. "I use a little lime, too."
Over at the Bank of Alameda, Lola takes my checks and says she's making tuna salad. She fixes a bed of romaine, cuts up tomatoes and cucumbers, tops it with garlic salt and tosses in her tuna with mayonnaise. She likes watermelon for dessert.
"It's so refreshing," she says. "It just kind of cools you right off."
"When it's hot," Lola says, "My gosh! You don't even feel like eating that much."
Later, after the kids are out of school, it is much, much hotter. At the library, I run into Sylvia, one of whose twins is in the third-grade-newsletter class with my daughter. She has four children.
"I try not to cook too much when it's hot," she says, while her daughter looks at Eleanor Roosevelt biographies. "One of my favorite things is salade nicoise. It's lettuce, with hard-boiled eggs, and little pink potatoes and olives. The kids like it."
The kids do not like us stopping to chat. They want our help finding books.
At Robeks, my final retail stop of the day, I buy a raspberry smoothie and read, with my son, a new book on Pluto, which explains how, after a good deal of infighting among the experts, Pluto stopped being a planet and became a dwarf planet.
At home, the toddlers next door play happily with the hose while my own kids are occupied online. We grill turkey burgers and eat them topped with lettuce, onion and tomato outside while the day cools.
The next morning, J.B. e-mails to say she never did get the mint and parsley. But her daughter took the leftover tabouli to school in her lunch box. A good meal for still another hot day.
Eve Pearlman also writes the Alameda Journal blog. Look for more news, impressions and discussion at www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal