Tomatoes, tomatoes. Mike Engels is bringing in huge boxes of vegetables now, but mostly tomatoes. My god, the deepest red ones I’ve ever seen. They look rich and fat and full and they taste like that, big and full of life like a steak, so much so that you might think you don’t need meat. He likes the heirloom variety. I used to buy them in Boston — we looked forward to the later summer when they came in to the stores, because they were the best tomatoes of the year — but they didn’t taste half this good. When the garden starts spilling over in piles, it’s exciting, I think. Last night I served them for dinner with mozzarella I had made fresh at the cafe — I just tried that for the first — and I was going on about the tomatoes and the cheese and I noticed Leah looking at me funny. “Mom,” she said. “They’re just tomatoes.” My face must have fallen a little because she quickly added, “But the cheese is awesome. We need to make pizza.”
I was in the back room going through the boxes Mike had brought in, sorting them. Jackie was looking crossways at the heirloom varieties, holding them up, looking at the dark blue veins in some, or the ones that make a sunburst from deep yellow to bright orange. “What do these taste like?” she said. She looked very skeptical. I guess she’s never seen them. “They look like they might taste … strange.”
I said, “There are too many. I need to figure out what to make with them and then we need to get more people in here to eat them up.” Jackie picked up another one, one of those kinds that are all green.
“Is this one even ripe?” she wanted to know. I said, “Yeah, that’s how those kind are.” She said, “Weird,” and moved on to another one.
I said, “So what can I make with these that might draw people in?” She said, “Everybody is starting to get tomatoes at home. Most people anyway. If they have a garden, they have tomato plants. They might even be starting to get sick of them already, and we have weeks and weeks to go. If you put a sign outside that said something like, ‘Hey! Special on tomatoes!’ everybody would probably head straight for the steak house.”
So she doesn’t share my excitement. Oh well. Maybe I will make something and freeze it and hope we’re still in business come winter and then I’ll open it up and people will be saying, “My god! Tomatoes! This is amazing!” It always seems to take a winter to get people to appreciate something good.