Of tomatoes and love

victoria  —  August 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

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The cliché phrase “Life is funny” is, as it happens, overused for a reason. Life is funny and more often than not, not exactly what one expected. While we are piling on with the stock lines let’s also use “nothing is wasted on a writer.” The last week and change has been an exercise in observation of things I didn’t really expect.

Let’s begin with the tomato.

I would really like to be a gardener. When I have gardened, it’s gone rather well and I could pick things for eating with regularity. I’ve also moved house (a lot) and putting in a garden is always something I want to do but we move in at the wrong time of year and I never quite get to it. There are always excuses. The thing is, I know if it were important enough to me, I would do it come rain, shine or another house move. Clearly, I am either too lazy or it just isn’t important enough to me to overcome the admittedly low hurdles to make it happen.

So, I buy tomatoes in the summer (fresh tomatoes in the winter are wet, cottony wastes of money and time and not the subject of this post). I buy them at the farmer’s market most usually on Saturday morning. When my schedule precludes the farmer’s market, I go instead to Whole Foods and pay the convenience fee for my local tomatoes, organic pasta, and other pantry staples all being in one place.

Yesterday, when I wanted a tomato that I did not buy at the farmer’s market, I knew I would pay a premium. But it’s August and hot and now is the time to eat a tomato. I thought the sign said $5.99/each, so being slightly greedy in my tomato choosing, I chose the biggest, heaviest, orangest tomato on the pile. At the register, I learned it was $5.99 a pound and, well, not being keen on sheepishly taking the platinum-valued, $10 tomato back to the table with its brethren, I swiped my card and went about my business.

Now, how to honor this very dear tomato? I’m a firm believer in buying the best ingredients you can afford (or, in this case, splurge on) and doing as little as possible to them to honor their essence. I cut the core out of this giant tomato and then into three portions following its natural lobes, sliced one lobe into manageable slices and laid it out on a serving platter. I drizzled some California olive oil over it and scattered the slices with some crushed white pepper corns and black Hawaiian sea salt. I also dug out the beautiful, horn tomato fork my sister bought me for my birthday a few years ago. That was the salad to go with our pasta dish composed of orecchietti, sliced leftover brats, caramelized onions, a red pepper, and a glug of cream. Not too shabby for 20 minutes from walking in the door to sitting down at the table together. The tomato was perfect.

After dinner, I sliced the remaining tomato lobes, covered them in more of the olive oil and set them in a low oven for an hour to poach. We’ll have those tonight or tomorrow night as bruschetta with some local goat feta. I feel I will have honored my platinum tomato to the best of my ability.

All this cooking and thinking about food doesn’t happen in the vacuum of the Internet, of course. I have a job and a family, friends and two feline rulers. It’s a pretty good life all told. There’s a lot going on in it right now. My boychick, who is now a young man, leaves for college on Thursday. Keifel and I both have elderly parents in declining health. We have jobs that for the most part leave us fulfilled but are by no means perfect. We have friends who are experiencing their own griefs and transitions. Life is funny and messy sometimes. And then just when you think you’ve got a purchase to ride the wave you’re currently on, Poseidon, or Ursula the Sea Witch or whatever you believe controls the universe or leaves it to chaos, ramps up the machine and sends a rogue wave right at you.

My rogue wave brought a surprise invitation for the boychick to meet his birth father. I can speculate all afternoon and into the wee hours of tomorrow about why it finally happened, but I have no idea what the catalyst really was. It’s something I’ve always hoped would happen because I think knowing where you came from can be important to knowing who you are. It went well, as best as reported to me by Keifel and Jules. My son is the glassy surface of a pond when it comes to these things and he’s of the let’s-wait-and-see-where-this-goes mentality.

I do wish I had that seemingly magic ability to be unruffled by the unexpected. Okay, sometimes I do and I have learned as I’ve gotten older, it’s all unexpected. But being in my own transition with Jules’ departure for college, that rogue wave smacked me right in the face. There’s nothing like a mouthful of metaphoric seawater to startle you.

It stirred up some of the emotions that wisp around old wounds, wounds from which I fully believe I have long healed. I guess the scar still itches and maybe that never quite goes away. I’ve talked it out and gazed at my belly button and even had a couple new epiphanies about things I thought I’d finished thinking about. I’m fine as it turns out and the water is definitely calmer now.

You might be asking yourself what the hell tomatoes have to do with personal history and the turns life can take. I thought I knew what I was doing both in buying that tomato and in a long ago relationship. The costs were higher than I imagined but I regret nothing; the tomato was and life is delicious (even when messy). Also, if something is really important to you, apparently you will do it, eventually.

[edited because I always find mistakes after I hit publish]

victoria

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