Well, I done et my tomato. . .
I'd intended to give it another day or two, but last night when I went out to check on it like I normally do; touching the rich soil for dampness or dryness and giving it my customary caress, the tomato popped right off its sturdy stem into my welcoming hand. I tried not to fret, but I was a tad disappointed that it snapped off as readily as it did; it growing solo and all. Once I'd made up my mind what to do with my meaty prize, I'd planned to pluck it off the vine in an intentional act. I stood on the damp lawn, turning it over in my palm, examining the handful of light brown nicks punctuating its thick, glossy skin. I pondered the stars in the darkening sky, savoring the slight coolness in the air after a scorching day, and then delightedly took my first homegrown 'Ace' into the house. I'd purchased the seedling in April, three and a half months ago, when the price of tomatoes was as high as gasoline – $3.99 for a pint of less-than-mouth-watering "vine-ripened" grape tomatoes. I'd nearly abandoned one of my favorite fruits for those two reasons – tastelessness and petrol prices. Instead, I took advantage of a nursery sale and purchased my first of two plants for my spring garden – weeks later, I'd return and buy an artichoke. I pity the poor souls who have never eaten sun ripened tomatoes. Kaitlyn, my niece, was four when she told me she didn't like tomatoes even though she loved marinara sauce, not realizing the source of its goodness. I told her, after you've eaten garden fresh you'll love them too. I washed my lovely red treat, toweled it off, and set it gently on the window sill. Off and on for an hour or so, I eyed it lustful-like, while I waited for a pot of long grain brown rice to finish boiling. Twice I went to the sink and picked it up, so tempted to bite into its fragrant red-orange flesh and let the juice run down my chin. Each time, I reluctantly set it back on its perch on the cool tile ledge returning to the stove to check the progress of my meal; glancing at it lovingly from time to time. "Tomorrow" I kept reminding myself. Eat it tomorrow after you've decided how you'll prepare it. For the past few days I'd been repeating that refrain – tomorrow – as I went over all the possibilities. I'd finally narrowed it down to three options:
1. The main feature in a light sauce – green onions, a dash of garden fresh thyme, and sliced mushrooms sauteed in extra virgin olive oil – served over a mound of piping hot polenta;
2. Thickly sliced on a bed of arugula with a sliced chicken breast (baked with tandoori masala spices) and slivered white onions, with a serving of fresh sesame tahini salad dressing; or
3. Cut in half with a dash of Spike's seasoning.
Tomorrow at noon:
I knew it was time.
I decided on option 2, with a handful of brown flax seeds sprinkled on top, as an after thought. Along with my salad, I fixed a tall glass of Celestial Seasonings Chocolate Caramel Enchantment 100% Natural Chai iced tea, sans sweetener. I placed my white salad bowl on the cluttered kitchen table – paints, colored pencils and torn art papers pushed aside – and finally sat down to savor the juicy, red flesh nestled in its bed of greens. On this sultry summer day, with the sliding glass door open, screen door shut, ceiling fan running fast, I glimpsed at the naked vine as I took my first fork full. My only companions – Robert Pritchard on cd, accompanied by bees vigorously buzzing lavender stalks a few feet away in the back yard.
. . . and it was good!