The summer table was never complete at our house without a plate of sliced tomatoes and a small bowl of cucumbers in vinegar with copious amounts of pepper. My Mom’s version of a salad was minimalist or what we had picked up from my Grandparent’s house on Sunday. In the dog days of summer this would always include a bag of tomatoes. One of my Grandfather’s many life lessons was, never grow what you can buy for cheap. I’m going to wager a guess that lettuce was pretty cheap, because I never saw him grow it and it never made its way into our summer salad. Tomatoes and cucumbers were all you ever really needed anyway.
Of all the vegetables my Grandfather grew, the one for which he was most famous, were his tomatoes. Their taste was beyond compare. I can still remember the earthy quality to the smell and the deep red of the flesh, truly incomparable. Every year the patch would move. He liked to place his prized tomatoes over the compost pile from the year before. Never in the same place twice, the tomatoes were rogue residents of the back yard. King of the garden you might say, their placement was always chosen first, while everything else fell in line. Initially the plants were looked after with quite a bit of care, but quickly, as the season progressed, the tomato plants had their way with the garden and grew as they pleased. My grandfather never argued, because the plants always put forth fruit with the greatest of abundance.
Now you might imagine the tomatoes piled in the kitchen and my grandmother must have been canning around the clock, but that was not the case. In fact, I do not ever remember my grandmother putting up tomatoes, or anything for that matter. I do remember asking my Mom about this once and this is what I remember about her response. My grandmother hated canning, hated everything about it. She hated heating up the kitchen with the large pot of boiling water, hated the process of cleaning and sealing all the jars. My Mom says my grandma used to make jam, however I never saw this happen. It must have been BC, before Charlene.
So what did my grandfather do with all of his tomatoes? Surely there must have been a purpose for all those tomatoes? Well, they ate as many as they could. When we arrived at my grandparent’s house in the summer, you always found a plate of sliced tomatoes on the kitchen table with a salt shaker somewhere close by. We never went home without a bag of tomatoes for us, they were my Mother’s favorite. And the rest? As it turns out, my grandfather used to walk the neighborhood and find unsuspecting porches to drop bags of tomatoes on. Some neighbors knew of course from whence their tomatoes came, but others just came home to find this lovely bag of produce.
I hope I can be this awesome when I grow up.