Wednesday, November 2, 2011
NaBloPoMo Post #2 - If You Knew That Whatever You Ate Next Would Be Your Last Meal, What Would You Want It To Be?
Do not discount this simple fare. Those of you who have never experienced a John's Island or Wadmalaw Island, SC, tomato have not lived a full life, I can promise you that. I know that there are scads of uncivilized people who despise tomatoes, and for many of them, it's for good reason. As wonderful as a good tomato is, a bad one is disproportionately more terrible. Mealy, grainy, flavorless, and worst, deceptive, as even the impostor tomatoes can appear beautiful, ripe and luscious, thereby tricking the diner into thinking they would enjoy this fruit. For your information, yes, it IS a fruit botanically, but considered a vegetable for culinary purposes. Loaded with nutritional goodness, the tomato is a rock star in the world of health for it's benefits, including being a major contributor to heart health amongst other properties!
It is a shame that while the United States is the world's second largest producer of tomatoes, many people have only had the grocery store variety, which generally is mass produced on corporate farms. To truly experience the genuine article, I will take you to Wadmalaw, a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina. Our soil is sandy, our sun is blistering hot and our humidity will make you feel like you are drowning while on dry land, and yet this appears to be the perfect cocktail for the humble tomato. You very often will see a old farmer, driving an even older blue tractor among green plants about thigh high, fuzzy limbs drooping with the weight of the red, misshapen globes. Here's a hint: the best tomatoes are ugly as homemade sin. Lumpy, bumpy and sometimes just downright weird looking, an heirloom tomato is nothing to look at. Nothing, unless you know what lies within.
Tomatoes like this can be eaten like an apple, right out of the field. The sun warms them to about body temperature, and the vine will yield them easily when they are ripe. The smell of these fields is pure heaven. Sunshine, earth, and the plants themselves create a sensory pallet that is unparalleled by anything I've come across so far. The skin will give slightly under fingertip pressure and, if the rains have been right, there won't be a mark on it.
Once you've selected your perfect specimen, you take it home and place it on your kitchen counter, never in the refrigerator as that will damage the flavor. Choose your favorite white bread, your favorite mayonnaise, some salt and pepper, perhaps some bacon crumbles and create the sandwich. Your life's internal calendar will forever look forward to July, when the tomatoes start being ripe. But only those from sea islands, from old farmers, and from the sun.
This truly would be my last meal...currently I'm sad that it's not July.
Photo credit: http://theshoptart.com/
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