Today I worshiped at the altar of late summer bounty. After my work shift was over, before I needed to start on the next freelance project, I went outside with bowl and garden scissors to pick the peppers off the five or six plants we have in the front yard. They were bursting with beautiful chile goodness and I probably got over half a bushel off those few plants with plenty left on to get a bit bigger. The wind kicked up today and it wasn’t much above 70 degrees. I’ve got some pork shoulder steaks in the freezer and I feel a batch of green chile coming on.
Then, I moved to the various tomato plants around the yard. G came out and joined me and we got a huge bowl of yellow pear tomatoes, gold cherry tomatoes and lots of our Inca yellows as well. I reached into the Mortgage Lifter plant that’s right off the back patio and found two of the reddest, heaviest, most perfect looking tomatoes ever and decided that’s what I would have for supper–tomato sandwiches.
Picking done for the moment, I went to the kitchen and pulled out four slices of good whole-wheat bread. My own might have been some better, but I haven’t baked in a while. I spread on a good layer of mayonnaise and then sliced the tomatoes with the bread knife. Hint: A bread knife is perfect for slicing ripe tomatoes. As I stood in my afternoon-lit kitchen, under the ceiling fan, with tomato juice running over my fingers, I remembered learning to love tomatoes from my mother. The first garden I ever knew was the only one she ever planted. I was about five years old. She gave me jar lids with salt sprinkled inside and showed me how to pick the tomatoes, dip them in the salt and bite, squirting the warm juice right into my mouth and usually down the front of my shirt.
I lay the thick, firm, even slices on the bread and remembered walking in Spain, on hot, September afternoons, stopping in tiny villages with alimentacions (grocery stores) the size of closets, picking out a couple of small tomatoes and a loaf of bread, and sitting against stone walls, eating one of Spain’s national dishes–pan con tomate, bread and tomatoes. I put the top slices of bread on the sandwiches, pressed them gently down and remembered a thank you card I just saw yesterday when I was cleaning out my monthly bill files. It was from a friend whose father passed away a year or two after my mother. I sent food from a local restaurant after he passed and she was grateful. They had the same birthday, her father and my mother, April 1, and we always send each other notes on that day, assuring ourselves that Bobby and Meeps are having a grand party in Heaven.
I took my plate to the couch, looked out over the park across the street and bit into my own bit of heaven, remembering how my mother loved her Miracle Whip and how my daughter and I always ragged her on it, being mayo-only girls. Each bite of sandwich took me to another memory, my mother, my travels, our upcoming anniversary, the first time I grew tomatoes out here in Colorado–the first time I ever actually gardened. We started these plants from seed in January and now in late September, I come full circle, eating the delicious fruits of our labor and the gift of the dirt we help create and keep healthy with our scraps and our trash. Trash into gold. Connecting to the past. Grounding in the present. Eager for the future. All from one small, round, red fruit off a tomato vine. What church could be more perfect?