Anticipation

I find satisfaction in planting a seed and watching the energy of life sprout out of the earth, in watching the plant grow up and bear food. It’s the love of dirt and growing things that compels me to put out a few tomato plants every year.

In early spring, I plant. Then I tend, water, weed, and wait.

In high summer, I pick fat, red, and ripe tomatoes off the backyard vines. Homegrown varieties, all with the smell and taste of the sun and earth packed inside.

tomatosandwich

The first tomato always goes to an old-fashioned, country-style tomato sandwich. The recipe is simple. Pick one garden-grown, softball-sized tomato, still warm from the vine. Place it on a cutting board. Cut a 3/8” slice crosswise into slippery, orange-red pulp, through a sunburst of yellow, as seeds and juice spill out. Smother two slices of white bread with liberal swirls of creamy mayonnaise. The slice of tomato should cover the slice of bread, touching brown crust on all four sides, leaving only slight triangular corners. Salt sparingly. Pepper. Savor the first bite, letting the juices trickle down your chin.


Tis the Season

High summer, sun and heat, a little rain, and green growth. Tomatoes are full and fat on the vines. Energy pumps through my veins as I watch and wait for them to turn the right shade of red.

I rub a leaf between my fingers, pick a ripe tomato, hold it in my hand, then sniff the distinct smell it leaves on my skin. It’s still warm, fresh, full of juice, packed with sunshine and life-energy surging to it from the vine source.

I slice through a sunburst of yellow and let seeds and juice burst out and run across the cutting board and onto the countertop.

I place two of the slices between two pieces of white bread smothered with creamy white mayonnaise, then sprinkle sea salt and pepper on top. I take a bite and let the seedy, pulpy juice run down my chin. I savor the taste.

Summer in the South is distilled into one sandwich.


Lunch, A Tomato Sandwich

“Three months of high summer — July, August, and September — I relish fat, red, and ripe tomatoes off the backyard vines. Homegrown Tomato Red with the smell and taste of the sun and earth packed inside.” This passage is from my essay “Tomato Red” in my book Pink Butterbeans: Stories from the heart of a Southern woman.

Yet it’s almost August and the tomatoes are still green. I have six plants and no fat, red, and ripe tomatoes. I can hardly wait, though, and I will begin my watch for green to turn to yellow, then orange, then a fine ripe red. I know lunch that day will be a tomato sandwich, along with a few chomps on the little banana peppers planted beside the tomatoes in my tiny backyard garden, and maybe a few slices of cucumber, soaked in a vinegar/sugar mixture.

Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

The recipe for a tomato sandwich, as described in Pink Butterbeans, is as follows:

Pick one garden-grown, softball-sized tomato, still warm from the vine. Place it on a cutting board. Cut a 3/8″ slice crosswise into slippery, orange-red pulp, through a sunburst of yellow, as seeds and juice spill out. Smother two slices of white bread with swirls of creamy mayonnaise. The slice of tomato should cover the slice of bread, touching brown crust on all four sides, leaving only slight triangular corners. Salt sparingly. Savor the first bite and let the juices trickle down your chin. The season’s first tomato sandwich is worth the wait, worth sweaty garden travail — a reward for suffering through sweltering, simmering summer days in the South.