Ode to a Fresh Tomato

Out back is the garden:  a couple of peony bushes, climbing roses and lilacs, but the vegetable garden is where the real action is.  Daddy’s vegetables.  Late winter he puts up seedlings on the window sills in tiny cardboard pods he carves out of feed boxes from the dairy.  After the last frost, planting begins and though he’ll let us help with the seedlings, the planting is something he likes to do by himself.  He tends his vegetables like he tends us, gently but firmly.  Tomatoes are staked out in razor straight rows surrounded by marigolds to keep away the slugs.  Lettuce, carrots, shallots, peppers (sweet and hot), beets, cucumbers, and zucchini all have a spot in Daddy’s garden.  Ma cans tomatoes at the abundant end of summer, but I never get tired of eating fresh tomatoes; I eat them like apples, juice dripping down my chin onto my polo shirt.  How I long to devour Daddy’s tomatoes once again.

 

Ode to the Fresh Tomato

You look perfect–

Round, red, firm.

Your green pert stem

Shouting, “Just picked!”

I fall for you, hard.

Caressing your

Tender, outer flesh

I cradle you in my hands.

And take you

Home with me.

I remove your stem

To reveal a soft, contoured bottom.

I prepare you

In precise slices,

Setting you aside on a plate:

Trickle of juice and seeds.

I spread creamy mayo

On bread, add a slice of cheese

And finally, you,

The last layer.

I bite into my creation,

Eating over the sink

To catch drips.

 

But you,

Alas,

Are a grocery store tomato.

An echo, a wisp. Not real.

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16 thoughts on “Ode to a Fresh Tomato

  1. Wow, Diane! A unique description of tomatoes in your dad’s garden – quite a sensual experience – leaves me longing for the perfect tomato! I made an immediate connection with the disappointment I often feel when I buy veggies and fruit in the grocery stores. They taste very different than the ones purchased at stands in summer or grown in a backyard garden. But, nonetheless, (Ha! I used your word!) I think I will have a tomato sandwich for lunch today!

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  2. Diane, I love reading about you childhood memories! And your poem made me chuckle. I’m a bit of a tomato snob. While that grocery store tomato may look tasty, nothing is more disappointing than when it is not ripe on the inside. I like a hint of bacon with my tomatoes too!

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  3. You had me until mayo!!! But I smiled — which your writing always seems to bring a smile to my face. This is a great piece for sensory images – I could taste, feel, see and smell it!!! I love – An echo, a wisp. Not real. Perfect word choice and ending!
    Clare

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  4. Diane, I hated tomatoes, until last year. Too slimy, seedy, mealy. But I ordered plants from a boy scout across the street, thinking I would try a garden again, but in a new spot. When the plants were delivered, I had 33 more plants than I was expecting, and a plot too small to handle them all. I started giving them away, by the six pack. We ended up keeping 18 plants, and we were so glad we did. We used the compost that took 2 years to make, and had the most productive garden of tomatoes ever imagined. We ate more grilled tomato, basil and cheese sandwiches, tomato tarte tatin, tomato quiche, and tomato salad than 2 people really should. And, even after eating and giving away tons, we still ended up freezing dozens…but they were so sweet and so delicious, like candy, that I am searching for the same variety to try again this year. Your poem today reminded me that I have yet to buy my plants. Thanks for the memory.

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  5. Not only did your poem bring back memories of those delicious freshly picked tomatoes, it also sent me reminiscing on picking them way back when I was a kid. We used to head out with our parents to the local farm and pick at least 500 pounds, more if we were picking for my grandparents too. We came back with green hands and sometimes, if a tomato fight had ensued, with seeds and peel mashed into our hair and clothing. I remember eating those tomatoes like apples. Then we would bring them home to can and juice. Nothing tastes as fine as homemade tomato juice…

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