Jewell Parker Rhodes: Lanesha’s Lemonade

Jewell Parker Rhodes: Lanesha’s Lemonade

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010), 224 pages,
 Grades 5-8

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orlean’s Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane — Katrina — fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

For her birthday, Lanesha likes to rinse her cake with sweet lemonade.  Lemonade and chocolate cake make the world better! (At least, Lanesha thinks so!)

Note:  The secret to great lemonade is starting with simple syrup, or sugar dissolved in boiling water.  When you use simple syrup, the sugar is distributed throughout the lemonade instead of sinking to the bottom.

For the simple syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

For the lemonade

1 cup fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed (5-6 lemons)
3-4 cups cold water
Sliced lemons, for garnish
Sprigs of fresh mint, for garnish

1.  Make the simple syrup (see note):  Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved completely.  Set aside.

2.  Use a juicer to extract 1 cup of juice from the lemons.

3.  Place the lemon juice and simple syrup into a pitcher.  Add 3-4 cups of cold water, more or less depending on the desired strength.  Refrigerate for 30-40 minutes.  If the lemonade tastes too sweet, add a little more straight lemon juice.

4.  Serve over ice, garnished with sliced lemons and mint sprigs.

Yield:  6 servings