Cooking is done in the garden. When that’s not complete, the gardening takes place in the kitchen.
Alan Chadwick, gardener
It was a sleepy late afternoon this past Saturday. I had just put on a pot of coffee to try to raise the shades inside my heavy head when a feeling of utter urgency took over. I began to put a few facts together: 1) it is chilly, autumn-like and 2) the squirrels are acting crazy – darting through the yard with black walnuts in their teeth and finally 3) lots of rain is expected tomorrow (Sunday).
I slowly pour my coffee as these thoughts run through my brain like a slide show on a loop. Suddenly the shades snap up and reveal a blinding call to action:
Time to gather the ripe tomatoes off the vines in the garden! The squirrels are getting hungry and desperate – they are going to eat them! Their squirrely behavior along with the cooler weather and impending rain says Time is up, Woman! Better act now!
I put a large pot of water on the stove and set it to simmer, slide into my flip flops, grab an empty brown grocery bag and head out into the garden where I gently twist and ever-so-slightly pull sixteen ripe and ready tomatoes from their unruly vines! It is time to make enough sauce to last us all winter! (At this point I am completely giddy at the thought of many zippered plastic bags of fresh summer tomatoes taking up space in my freezer!)
Back in the kitchen I let them loose and watch them roll around on the kitchen table while the kids squeak and chase them, and most impressively, catch them before any of them fall onto the floor. Wiping away a tear of pride at the sheer beauty of what we grew, I begin to slice a small “x” in the bottom of each tomato with my pairing knife. By now the water has gotten its simmer on and I carefully lower each hefty tomato into the steamy, swirly bath.
Three minutes tops and I see the peel coming away from the happy bobbing orbs and so into a bowl they go until they are cool enough for me to remove their skins. From there I briefly pulse two batches in the blender and prepare to make sauce – again, enough sauce to last us through the long months of minus degree temperatures and mounds of white stuff that I won’t even mention by name this early in the calendar.
The Big Lesson
So guess what? I did make tomato sauce (a.k.a. Sunday Gravy, complete with meatballs – East Coast Holla!) and it was delicious, naturally sweet and so fresh, with beautiful young red color. However, and here’s the big lesson…16 tomatoes is only enough to make one pot of Gravy!
But it was good… and so worth it!