Tag Archives: Tomato

I Say Tomato – You Say Pomodoro

15 Sep

tomato guyWe’re just starting to organize our things for our trip to Roma, Apulia, and Campania leaving next Friday. I know, you’re asking me, “Just starting?” Getting some Euros, travel insurance, ironing, packing, “Honey, where’s my passport?”, and all the other fun stuff. I was thinking about what I was looking forward to and the first thing that came to mind was……… wine? No………Food? Well kind of. I’m looking forward to tomatoes. I love tomatoes! If the doctor told me I had to stay away from tomatoes or I‘d develop poor writing skills, a disorganized mind, a tendency to procrastinate, and a falsely earned sense of vanity, I’m afraid I just couldn’t. Besides I already have those things.

Why tomatoes? Well, in the town where I was a young teen, all the guys worked on farms to earn money required to buy:

  1. The newest Allman Brothers’ Band LP;
  2. Jade East cologne; and
  3. Beer from a bootlegger – usually Labatt’s 50. Some men nodding out there.

I had picked strawberries, cucumbers, cherries, hung and stripped tobacco, planted corn, and disked fields. But, the best summer assignment I had was hoeing and then loading tomatoes for Rocky VanGassen (real name used because you’ll assume it’s fabricated). Rocky grew tomatoes for Campbell Soups and they used them in V8 juice – a beverage that my father loved and I hated. Now, you hoe tomatoes just as the fruit is developing. At that time, there aren’t many really ripe tomatoes but every once in awhile you see one. I worked with an older gentleman who had been farming for years and hoeing his life away in the sun sans sunscreen. Grizzled, lean, and an accent that I never really picked up. Do you see him now? Bob Dylan meets a chain smoking Jimmy Stewart. Actually back then we wore sun tan lotion that encouraged a burn and nascent lesions. Anyway, I digress.

One day as we walked together down a row and hoed our little brains out, he stopped and turned the plant over to reveal a very ripe tomato. He bent down and twisted the tomato off the plant, rubbed it on his pant leg to clean the dirt off, and produced from his overalls pocket a salt shaker. I got the feeling that he’d done this before. When he noticed my puzzled look, he asked, “Didn’t you bring a salt shaker?” I said, “Pardon?” Remember he had an accent. He proceeded to bite into the tomato, a stream of juice dripping on the ground. Then he took the shaker and poured some salt on the open bite mark and then ate the rest of the tomato, alternating bites, dribbling and the application of what we would now say is too freakin’ much salt.

Now, if you’ve ever had a field fresh tomato in the hot sun with some salt (and apparently the sea didn’t have salt back then because ours came from a guy called Morton), you know what perfection is. I got home that night and asked my mother for a salt shaker for the rest of my hoeing days. I then ate enough tomatoes each day to produce a mild case of the hives. But, I can’t think of a more healthy experience or a better way to understand what food really is, where it comes from, and why we need to pay attention to it. A single tomato, properly produced, picked at the right moment and served simply might be my favourite food. No; not maybe. It is my favourite food. Period.

So, what does this lovely nostalgic story have to do with my considering the upcoming trip to Italy? Well, when we traveled to the south of France on two occasions and Greece on another couple, I just couldn’t get enough of the fresh produce and my friends the tomatoes, in particular. So, when I researched Apulia, I saw that it is the bread basket of Italy as far as produce goes. Bingo – tomatoes! Channeling Dr. Zeus, I will have them by themselves. I will have them with orecchiete and oil. I‘ll have them with burrata and herbs. I will get hives!

So, before it’s too late in the season get thee to an Ontario (or Michigan, or Pennsylvania or wherever you are) farmstand, get a basket of tomatoes, a salt shaker, some backyard sun, and my second favourite thing about Italy – a glass of fresh Chianti, Verdicchio, or Aglianico. Or, substitute a profoundly Canadian cocktail – a Caesar!

And, BTW, I got hooked on V8 juice too. Though, since it’s essentially a salt lick, I’m not sure it was the tomato content. Probably Morton again.

tomatofield

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