Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes. What would life be without homegrown tomatoes?
I remember hearing that old country song as a kid in Chicago. And boy could I relate!
There’s just something about a tomato that’s grown in your own yard. Bright red, still warm, slightly soft, and smelling of…..heaven. It’s the smell of my childhood; slightly dusty, herbal, and fresh. That smell brings me back….
When I was a kid, my grandmother lived with us. She was a quiet woman, born in the mountains of Pennsylvania in the small steel mill town of Jeanette. She lived a simple life and had a soft-spoken, gracious and warm personality. I loved her and cherished our time together. She loved me too, unconditionally. With me, she shared her special gift - how to make the perfect tomato sandwich.
On warm summer afternoons, we would head out to the garden, hand in hand. We’d search through the big, overgrown tomato plants and choose carefully from the bounty. On the way out, we’d grab a crisp green pepper.
Back in the kitchen, sandwich making was serious business. The tomatoes were sliced into thick slabs, and the pepper cut into very thin strips. The bread was toasted just until it began to brown and spread lightly with the mayonnaise. Tomatoes went on first, then the pepper strips, and just a bit of salt and pepper topped them off. The sandwiches were cut carefully from corner to corner, just like a “fancy restaurant”.
We’d pour a big glass of cold milk for me, an iced tea for her, and head back outside to eat our simple lunch under the old cherry tree. We’d eat slowly, savoring both our sandwiches and our special time together.
These days, I’m in Seattle. It’s much harder to grow tomatoes here - the summer nights are cool, and the days just don’t get hot enough for a bumper crop. I try though, settling for small varieties that mature quickly. I watch them closely, waiting patiently for the first harvest….and memories that flood back with my first tomato sandwich of the season.