If you could ignore the swarms of mosquitoes, the heat, the humidity and the clouds of DDT that blew across the neighborhood in the evening, summer in Houston, Tex., was a season of delight. Post Haste

When it came to food, the best of summer included homemade ice cream, watermelon and vegetable dinners.

Vegetable dinners were special--a major production suitable for Sunday dinner or a company meal. The produce might come from someone's garden or from the farmers' market. Sometimes the occasion resulted from a joint shopping trip by various aunts, mothers, grandmothers and cousins who bought vegetables by the bushel to split among the families.

Then the children could shell peas while listening to family gossip. Or sit around the compost pile together and shuck corn, throwing the husks and cornsilk onto the pile.

Back then, we never thought of vegetable dinners as anything virtuous like "eating low on the food chain." And, since bacon grease and pieces of salt pork added flavor to the vegetables, it probably wasn't a very low-cholesterol meal. It was just good.

The meal depended on what was available. It might be greens rather than black-eyed peas that were the centerpiece. A typical vegetable dinner included peas, corn, fried okra, cornbread and scallions, sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper and sliced cucumbers covered with white vinegar. The food was not only delicious, it could be prepared quickly. FRESH PEAS (Black-eyed or purple hull)

Shell the peas, add a piece of salt pork, bacon or a spoonful of bacon grease and water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cook slowly, covered, until tender. CORNBREAD (16 pieces)

According to my mother, only Yankees put sugar in cornbread. That was just one of their failings. 1 cup flour 1 cup cornmeal 4 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 eggs, beaten 1 cup milk or buttermilk 1/4 cup melted bacon grease or corn oil

Put all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir. Then add the other ingredients. Stir until just mixed. Pour the batter in a greased frying pan or 8-by-8-inch baking pan and bake for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees. FRIED OKRA

Slice fresh okra horizontally and roll it in cornmeal until it is lightly coated. Melt enough bacon grease in a frying pan to cover the bottom of the pan. Fry the okra in the hot grease until golden and serve.