Thursday, January 30, 2014



I love tomatoes.  I love them as much as I love pasta, so obviously I wait with intense anticipation for the late summer months when this most wonderful of the locally grown fruits is available.  How do I survive the rest of the year when fresh tomatoes are not available?  The truth is, I am such a tomatoholic that a harsh winter tomato is better than no tomato, much to the dismay of my dear wife.

Thinking about it, I would have to say that the tomato has been the most prominent food in my life, even more than my beloved pasta.   The lovely Jersey tomato dominates the gastronomic history of my childhood.  There has never been one that matches the flavor and richness of a tomato freshly picked from my father’s garden.

By the time I started school my father had converted the farm from crops to poultry, but always, out of love and necessity, managed a large, abundant vegetable garden.   He cultivated lettuce, asparagus, arugula, corn, and a variety of peppers, but the queen of the garden was the tomato.  This was before the age of the hybrids, and those seeds are no longer readily available; sadly the tomatoes of my childhood are no more.  The plants were not staked or contained in the cages used today.  The vines, laden with their fruit lay on the sandy soil, a mass of green dotted with red.  The tomatoes were generally the size of a tennis ball, maybe a little larger, and sometimes smaller.  It is easy for me to remember the pure delight of slices of fresh tomato and mayonnaise between two slices of bread on any summer day.

Competing with the tomato sandwich for “the best way to enjoy a tomato” title was the tomato salad, so simple, yet absolutely heavenly.  Several tomatoes are cut into bite sized pieces and placed in a bowl with a bit of water and drizzled with olive oil.  Salt, oregano, basil, and chopped garlic are added and mixed in with the tomatoes.  Accompanying the salad should be several thick slices of good Italian bread to sop up all the wonderful juices.

My dad, years later, in his beloved garden when he and my mom lived on our farm in Maryland.

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