Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Today I am grateful for fresh tomatoes. Yes, I’m the person in the produce department smelling tomatoes. If it doesn’t smell like a tomato I don’t buy it. This time of year, it’s strictly the farmer’s stands for me. Now those are tomatoes!
Tomatoes on my grandparent’s farm were abundant. I didn’t mind picking them as much as other things because they were bigger, you could clearly see if they were ripe and popped off the vine easily. They also filled up a bucket faster, which meant the end was near. Not the literal end, the harvesting end. . .and on the farm that “end” was hard to come by.
My mother canned tomatoes, filling quart jars and boiling the jars on the stove on “the hottest damned day of the year!” Her words. She recently reminded me that once she had canned forty quarts at one time. We hauled the jars up from the basement, she washed them by hand (no dishwasher back then), boiled the water necessary to skin the tomatoes, put them in jars, added canning salt, ran the knife to get the bubbles to the surface, wiped the rim, put on the Kerr soaked lid and ring, then put them in the huge canner to boil and seal.
This was not a short process. It took all day and the complaints and general bitching got worse the hotter the kitchen got. From all of us, me, my sister and especially my mom. “If I never see another tomato it will be too soon!. . .Blasted tomatoes. . .hottest damned day of the year!. . .good harvest my ass!” It got worse, but you get the picture. The old oscillating fan with a “protective” screen wide enough to slice off an arm if you got close, was nearly useless in the steamy heat of the kitchen. Steam blowing around is still steam.
Done boiling, mom would carefully remove the quart jars, wipe them with a towel and stand them on newspaper to “seal”. Each pop of a sealing lid brought joy because they could then be shelved in the fruit cellar. If the dimple in the lid didn’t cave, they had to be refrigerated and used fast.
The infamous day of the forty quarts, she had just finished, apron hung on the back of a kitchen chair to dry out, last batch cooling on the rack in the boiling pot because there was no more room on the counter. A huge glass of iced tea and a cigarette had her full attention when my dad, as happy as a cat delivering a mouse onto a stoop, appeared. . .with another bushel of tomatoes! “Lookit what I got!” he said, way too cheery.
They stayed married. It was a close call. Today I’m grateful for real tomatoes, the ones that smell like my grandma’s farm and my mom’s kitchen; the ones that ooze blood-red juice down your arm when you bite into them like an apple, straight from the vine. Yummmmmy.
Each and every day I find something to be grateful for. My gratitude's are heartfelt, personal, moving and often humorous. Facebook followers have encouraged me to branch out. I hope you will relate.
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