A quick little story before we head off to Portugal. Last night, Gabriella and I harvested our first tomatos from our rooftop garden. Well, in truth “garden” is a bit misleading, because it’s more like rooftop “planter” or rooftop space. After being told that we need to find a new home, we’ve put all projects on hold. Rest assured that wherever we move next in Catalunya, we WILL have a grilling terrace and another garden! We were able to harvest 5 tomatoes last night, and we’ll probably have about 10 or more in the coming weeks. Tossing them with some olive oil, sherry vinegar and S&P, we sat down with some grilled salmon and a wonderful Albariño. The tomatoes tasted incredible, regardless if it was because they were ours, and I have to say, the natural richness of the 3 yr old Albariño really paired well with both the salmon and the tomatoes. It’s amazing how sweet a tomato can be when left to fully ripen on the vine.
I have a quick story of my grandpa and my first real tomato! I was probably only 5 years old when this happened and my recollection is a combination of other people’s stories and blurred images infused with warm emotions. My grandparents lived in the country. Today that country is not so rural, but at the time, it was a house with a nice chunk of land and gardens all around it. Grandma and Grandpa were not very wealthy, but the land they owned – full of fresh produce, raspberry bushes and trees – today, feels like an estate I would gladly trade the world for. My story begins on one of those days that you spend at the grandparents so as to give your parents a much needed rest. Typically, these days would involve me following both my grandpa and grandma around, trying to keep there attention and help them with any little task they came up with. It was during one such day that my grandpa turned to me and said, “Ryan, today I’m going to show you how to eat a tomato.” At the time, I probably thought he was a bit mad. I knew how to eat stuff, and at that age, I was probably eating everything I could get near my mouth. Growing up takes a lot of fuel!
What I can infer from my memories is that it was probably late summer when this occurred and the big Beefeater tomatoes were hanging heavy on the vines. I guess when I say big, I meant big in the same way everything seemed larger when you remember your childhood. Following my grandpa, we headed out into the rows of vegetables to find the suitable educational tool. Given the choice, I’m sure my eyes grew large and as I proceeded to pluck off a tomato that took both of my little hands to grasp. I do remember that it was enormous and redder than the any Crayola crayon, I’d ever drawn with. Walking back to the grassy exterior of the garden, I climbed up on my grandpa’s lap within the folds of the old nylon webbed lawn chair. Grandpa magically produced a salt shaker from one of his many pockets, and proceded to tell me to take a lick of the tomato. Eager to please, I took a long lick and watched as grandpa sprinkled a little salt on it. Turning to him in curiosity, I distinctly remember him saying, “take a big bite out of it”! I opened my mouth wide and let the remaining baby teeth sink as far as I could into the sweet red flesh.
Looking back, I remember very little about what happened next. I’m sure I ended up with tomato guts dripping down my chin, coating both me and my grandpa’s lap. I do remember being very happy, and I wouldn’t doubt for a moment that I probably lobbied for another round after we finished off that first red monster. I can assure you though, that to this day, I love tomatoes. I really love tomatoes. Home grown, all the better. I love to watch them hang from their stems until they almost pull the plant to the floor and the red skin becomes so bright, it glows. I miss my grandpa from time to time, but the truth is, I never eat a fresh tomato without thinking of him. Some say eternal life is when others continue to hold your memory and share it. For me, that memory will never fade as long as I can grow a new plant each year.
So there’s my story. And now I ask you. Do you have a tomato story? How about a favorite recipe? How about a wine to pair with tomatoes? Fresh ones are often hardest to find a match for. Enjoy the weekend, and for those of you with gardens growing, enjoy your tomatoes, I know I will!
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