"Emma," Jimmy's voice carried a hint of a whine to it and Emma gave him an arched brow for the effort, "I just don't see what's so hard about makin' lemonade." He plopped down in a chair beside the kitchen table and drummed his fingers on the hardwood top.
"Nothin' to it really, but Jimmy," Emma gently slid her fingers through the unruly lengths of his hair, "Mr. Spoon nearly had apoplexy when you made lemonade while I was gone."
The young man shrugged and looked out the window at the other riders fooling around outside in the yard. "If he was the one who didn't like it, then why don't he make it? Save me the hassle, Lord knows I could use a break from all the cookin' and cleanin' I had to do while-"
"Hmmm…" Emma's voice was thick with laughter, "funny how that sounds like someone else I know."
Jimmy looked up at her for moment before the meaning of her words sunk in through his hard head. "Ha… Ha… very funny, right."
"Just you give me a few minutes, Jimmy… that's all it'll take for me to impart to you my secret for perfect 'lemonade.'"
"Come on, up on your feet." Emma picked him up by his upper arm, nearly twisting him around on her way to the pantry. Emma stuffed into his arms a large circular tin and a lumpy burlap bag and called over her shoulder. "Take those into the kitchen and put them on the table."
A moment after Hickok dropped both items on the table Emma tapped his shoulder. "Go get that pot for me."
Jimmy walked over to pots on the shelf and reached for one. Without looking Emma called out. "Not that one, the big one."
Raising his eyebrow and looking for any mirrored surfaces that could have given him away, Jimmy picked up the bigger pot and brought it back to the table. Before he could put it down, Emma looked at the door. "Take it outside and fill it with water almost to the top."
For a split second he considered walking right out the door and heading off for the swimming hole, but he knew better than that. Food over fun.
He came back with the pot. "Now what?"
"Just set it down on the table, Jimmy."
No sooner had it touched down on the table than Emma swept her hand over the cutting board and pile of halved lemons. "Go ahead and squeeze these into the pitcher."
He looked at the pot sitting in front of him and wondered. "Why don't I just squeeze it here in the pot?"
She gave him a look of utter disbelief. "That's the problem, Jimmy… if you just do it the easy way it's all wrong."
Emma left him to ponder that weighty statement as she picked up a large pan and set it on the stove. A quick reach into the wood basket that Buck had filled the night before and Emma had a fire building in the belly of the stove.
"What are you makin' in the pan, Emma?"
"Lemonade, Jimmy… lemonade." She gave the last word a sing-song quality that made his teeth grind against each other.
"I dunno what's goin' on, Emma… silly if you ask me, heatin' up lemonade. Ain't ya supposed to drink it cold?"
"Yes," she nodded in agreement and stepped back over to the table and popped open the tin she had him bring in from the pantry. Lifting up the tin cup hanging from her waistband she scooped it into the sugar and brought up full cup. Emma upended the sugar into the pan and went for a second scoop.
Jimmy paused his squeezing to stare openly at the Station Mistress. "You're gonna 'cook' the sugar?"
She gave him a grin that was mixed in with a smirk. "You'll see… just keep squeezin'… helps the muscles."
Another heaping scoop of sugar and then she tapped on the bottom of the cup to dislodge the sugar clinging to the side and then after a quick swipe inside from her apron skirt, Emma dipped the cup into the large pot of water that Jimmy brought in and poured three cups of water into the pan.
"I'm still confused," Jimmy shook his head, "this don't look anything like lemonade to me."
With both hands on the handle she set the pan on the stove and picked up a wooden spoon. "The trick is the syrup." She looked at him and smiled. "Mama called in 'simple syrup.'" She dipped the shallow bowl of the spoon in the pan and started to swirl it around and around as the heat built up. "The sugar dissolves into the water and makes everything smooth."
Jimmy gave a slow nod that looked as though he just 'dipped' his head. "So, instead of the sugar fallin' to the bottom when you put it in…"
"Yep, it blends with the lemon juice, nice and easy."
A smile spread across his lips and he began squeezing the lemons in earnest.
Less than a half an hour later, when the yard had cleared of noise and Jimmy had fetched a block of ice from the cellar, the 'simple syrup' was thick and warm in the pan, and the lemon juice had all been squeezed into a crockery, Emma lifted up her cup and they began to mix.
"So," Jimmy tried to peer into the pitcher while Emma poured into it, "how much to add in of the water, syrup and lemon juice?"
Poised with her hand over the mouth of the pitcher and a mischievous grin lighting her features, Emma gave him a wink. "We'll just have to taste it now won't we?"
Jimmy grabbed a couple of cups and held them out. "I like the way you think, Emma… It suits me just fine."
Disclaimer: While this is about food, I am in no way advocating someone making this lemonade for any reason. I cannot verify the recipe or the health benefits or taste of it.