Discover more from Poiema
I walked through the back door of my grandmother’s house and found her bent over the washing machine in a sticky cloud of Shout stain remover. She was scrubbing some flimsy garment with such intensity I was worried that she was going to rub the paint clean off of the old Maytag.
She didn’t hear me come in. I eased up behind her and stuck my lips right against her left ear and boomed, “Watcha doin?”
She jumped half-way up the washer, clearing the corner with the agility of an Olympian pole vaulter.
“S**t,” she yelled.
I just stood there smiling like a possum with a mouth full of briars.
“Boy, you made me talk ugly!” she barked.
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” I said.
“If you was worried about the condition of my heart you wouldn’t be slipping up on me like that!” She parried.
“You been eatin’ tomatoes,” I asked.
She looked at the scrubbed blouse and then back up at me like a little girl who had just been caught playing in her mother’s rouge. “Well, as a matter of fact I have.”
“It looks like you were enjoying it.”
She laughed. “Those good Bradley and Indian tomatoes are finally in season. I went over to James Robert’s farm and got a box of em’ to make sandwiches. I decided to try one as soon as I got em’ home. I just stood over the sink and bit into it like an apple. Juice ran down my chin, all over my shirt, and clean up to my elbow.” Then she giggled. “But it was so good.”
“You’re gonna have to start wearing dark colors when you eat tomatoes.” I said. “Or a slicker suit.”
“I studied on just taking a couple to the shower with me to save on laundry,” she said. “But right now I need to get in the kitchen and slice up a few 'cause I know your granddaddy will be wanting lunch directly.”
And with that, “Mater Sandwich” season was underway.
In the Deep South, Summer officially comes in with the first tomato. But not the store-bought aberrations. Those tasteless wonders are fit only for chunking at cars on the highway after a ball game. Good tomatoes need to have come from dirt within fifty miles of home. Better still if you grow them yourself.
What Pumpkin Spice is to White Girl Fall, tomato sandwiches are to a Southern Summer. Simple yet sublime. All you need is a couple pieces of white bread (don’t aim for a healthy brand, aim for type-two diabetes), real mayonnaise (I recommend Duke’s), salt & pepper, and a thick slice of fresh tomato. Don’t worry if the tomato is misshaped or multicolored. Those features just add a bit of character. If you are feeling particularly adventurous you can fry up some bacon, but you will be just fine without the pork.
Nothing else is necessary. The Good Lord packed a whole season in those bright red orbs, wrapped them in crimson flesh–Summer incarnate, ripe for the picking. The moment you take that first bite and feel the juices dribble down your chin, you will begin having visions of backyard barbecues, front porch singing, and unending tailgate parties.
I recommend trying one the first chance you get. You take care of the bread and tomatoes, God Himself has already supplied the magic.