You Say Tomato

I want you to know, the first thing I did was bite into one like an apple. It dripped all over, I had to eat it over the sink.

To the person who gave me a basket of plump, homegrown tomatoes:

Right away, I could tell these were not the tasteless aberrations from the supermarkets. Those things aren’t fit for hunting dogs. No, these tomatoes are like the kind my mother grew in her garden. Irregular-shaped, multicolored, uneven.

I want you to know, the first thing I did was bite into one like an apple. It dripped all over, I had to eat it over the sink.

I don’t love many things as much as tomatoes.

I’m not just saying that. I’ve done some exciting things in my day. I’ve watched the sunset on a boat headed for Mexico; I’ve met the president of the Hair Club For Men; and I attended one Zig Ziglar symposium. Nothing matches fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes.

Save for tomato sandwiches.

Sandwiches made with white bread—the kind doctors tell you not to eat unless you want type-two diabetes. And mayo. I’m not one of those bigots who make ludicrous brand-loyal statements; but if you don’t use Duke’s Mayonnaise you’re a communist puppy-hater.

A few years ago, I bought homegrown tomatoes outside Tuskegee. I got halfway down the road, and had already polished them off. Thus, I turned back, and bought every basket the man had. I must’ve had two hundred tomatoes in the passenger seat.

It was impulsive, irrational, there was no way I could ever eat so many. So I stopped at the Tom Thumb for more salt.

The girl behind the counter said, “You been eatin’ tomatoes?”

“How’d you know?” I asked.

She pointed to the pink spot on my chest. “Your shirt.”

Sharp as a sickle, this girl. So I left her several ripe ones.

Because everyone knows, when tomatoes are in season, it’s time to let down your tailgate a little. Last night, I ate two tomato sandwiches for supper. This morning: tomatoes. Lunch: tomato sandwich. Supper: let’s just say I’ve got seeds on my liver.

I know it’s just a fruit, something inanimate. But to me it’s Mother, digging in the backyard with her bare hands, sweating like a dog. It’s standing over my kitchen sink, ruining another shirt. It’s summer, bicycles, and suppers outside. A whole season, wrapped in red skin, just waiting to drip all over. And if I might be so melodramatic, it’s goodness, in one of its many forms.

What I mean to say is:

Thanks for the tomatoes.

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