It begins by eating as many fresh, juicy, tomatoes in as many different ways for the next two months.
I get giddy around this time of year. It’s that height of summer moment when the oppressive gloom of winter registers as enough of a memory that Particularly in Seattle where the drizzle looms for nine months I feel like I MUST MAKE THE MOST of each long day. August still stretches before me, and afternoons are predictably blue sky and beautiful. I turn into a seven-year-old looking forward to my birthday. (August 17. Mark your calendars.)
I am an, (ahem,) adult now. It’s not so much my birthday that gets my late July heart pounding with anticipation, (although I can’t think it’s truly a coincidence that it happens at the same time of year,) but the arrival of fresh, local, warmed in the sun tomatoes. It’s heavenly BLTs, Gazpacho for lunch every day, bagels with cream cheese and tomato, Hetty McKinnon’s Dumpling Tomato Salad recently featured in the NY Times that I cannot WAIT to try.
Memories of last year’s BLT on Sourdough. I love zippy arugula, thick cut bacon, and enough mayo to combine with the tomato juice to make a pink “sauce”. Just a light toasting of the bread so it’s not a roof-of-mouth ripper.
Despite the gorgeous year-round displays in the grocery store, tomatoes are no good the rest of the year. I will die on this hill. They look like tomatoes, but they do not taste like tomatoes. They are Tomato Impersonators. Not the Vegas ones, the Reno ones. Flabby, watery, pink on the inside tomato wannabes.
I get it. Sometimes it’s January and you just want a great burger, and a great burger has tomato on it.
But hear me out – grilled onions on that winter burger. Give yourself something to look forward to. Do not succumb to the monotony of availability!
(Oh no! Here it comes! The soapbox is rolling under my feet! I am being lifted into the air and placed gently upon it!)
When I plant a few ‘seasonal only’ flags in the sand, (tomatoes and asparagus,) it feels like an act of rebellion (here she goes!) against the corporate overlords, (I’m looking at you, Bezos,) who want to enslave us to easily accessible mediocrity. Not only are out of season tomatoes like a bad AI version of tomatoes, (I’m picturing weird tomato hands and I hope you are too,) they are GARBAGE for the environment. (Now I’m picturing a tomato with weird hands guzzling oil out of a gas can…any illustrators out there want to help me with this one?)
Imagine a thing to look forward to every year. Christmas without the stress. It’s a two month long celebration. Simple feasts of fresh tomatoes (maybe just panzanella for every meal,) leave enough time in your cooking schedule to “put some up”! Can some of your own (or a local farm’s) tomatoes so you have them for the winter. (Even more out of the corporate overlord’s pockets!) Play with other forms of preservation – sun dry them, make a tomato jam, and at the end of the season pickle the green ones.
Winter (and fall, and spring,) tomatoes will be canned tomatoes. They’re sun kissed love letters to your future self, your gloomy winter self, to use in your soups, stews, and braises. (I love spending Boxing Day turning Christmas Prime Rib into a giant pot of Minestrone.)
If you remain unconvinced that canning, pickling, and jamming, (woot woot,) is a great use for your post-industrial revolution time management that’s okay too. People do great work in sunny places (like ITALY!!!) to put all those tomatoes up for us in the height of summer, so that we can buy them in winter. While not as environmentally friendly as local tomatoes you can yourself, they are perfectly delicious.
Even so, I’d love for you to try the tomato challenge with me. Eat as many fresh tomatoes in as many ways as possible as soon as the local ones start hitting the shelf. (They do NOT appear in farmers markets until they’re ready…any minute now here in Seattle, probably full throttle everywhere else in the country!) Or just follow my insta @thanksalt as I will be howling at the moon in gratitude when the time comes. Bask in tomato season. Eat tomato sandwiches over the sink. Put flaky salt on big slices of Beefsteaks and call it lunch. Try all the colors, sizes, styles, in all the ways. And then, somewhere towards the end of September, go on fresh tomato lent until next summer.
By this time next July your mouth will be watering, your heart will be pounding, and you’ll be counting the minutes until the tomatoes arrive like a seven-year-old before their birthday.