Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's a Happy Tomato Kind of Day

My favorite food hands-down (and I've tasted plenty to compare) is tomatoes. I am, in fact, a tomato snob. I would rather go without than eat a sub-par, off-season, mealy, refrigerated (oh, the horror!) sorry excuse for my beloved red globes of joy. This morning, Jamie and I went to market. I now have a ceramic bowl on my counter overflowing with tomatoes in various stages of ripeness, just waiting to make me happy. This is not an adult-acquired taste, but rather one cultivated at an early age in the dark, black soil of the Calumet Region of Northern Indiana. My sweetest childhood memories are of gathering that day's vegetable yield from my Papa's garden. Snap beans, green onions, peppers, radishes, zucchini, and more would be plucked from their plants, each selected by Papa's knowing eye. The tomatoes, however, held no mystery. I knew exactly which were ready to pluck, which were salvageable from the ground, and which would be ready tomorrow. Best of all, I knew which ones would never make it across the yard and into the sink for washing. Those were carefully wiped with Papa's handkerchief and handed to me. They felt firm but tender in my hand, and with the warmth of the sun, I think I imagined them pulsing with life. I would lift them to my face with both hands. Mouth open as wide as possible, I'd bite the fragile skin and feel the fruit explode in my mouth, laughing and slurping as it squirted everywhere. I close my eyes and can still feel the hot black earth between my toes, the calloused skin of Papa's hands, and the sun on my skin. I smell a comforting melange of dirt, onions, and pipe tobacco. I hear the whir of dragonflies, chirping of birds, the creak of a screen door, and Nana's voice call out, "Reg!" And I taste heaven.


  1. It such a conforting memory of being at Nana and Papa's. I remember watching you eating those tomatoes and thinking Gross! I didn't develop the taste for many years. Remember Augie running his laps around his tree. He made the same twirl at the first corner of his lap. Playing in the sandbox in the backyard. Prentending to dig to china. Remember the chicken cookie jar we would have to check out when you topped the stairs. To this day when ever I smell pipe tobacco I think of Papa sitting in his chair. Im flooded with so many memories right now, it makes me sad that my kids will never know them.

  2. My dad loved tomatoes too. He also loved to take a huge bite out of a nice sweet onion...:-) you make your childhood sound completely magical like something out of a norman rockwell painting.


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