Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last night we had brimming bowlsful of deep red, juicy tomatoes, straight from the vines in the back yard. They were picked within ten minutes of serving, as the country-fried pork steaks sizzled and the pot of field-peas-with-snaps and tiny okra pods steamed to firm-but-soft perfection.

A tiny pan of gold-meal cornbread---a little twinking of a packet-mix with an egg and a little sugar and flour---baked tender and moist, with a tiny pat of butter laid into the wedge on Chris’ plate. Slices of crisp-cold sweet onion, thick-walled and juicy, just lying idly on the plate for tiny nips between bites.

The tomatoes---peeled dripping for him and sliced into thick rounds in a bowl, salted gently and topped with a little spoonclop of Blue Plate---mine just cut as-they-were into odd-shaped chunks onto my plate and salted. He likes the final moment of making that perfect tomato salad at table---the age-old movements as fork-and-knife cross and clink and scrape in that enticing dance as the pieces fall into that indescribable amalgam of pure fresh tomato, salt, and the tiny rivulets of white as the dressing makes itself.

My cooking is so erratic these hot days---we’ll pick up Chinese, or pick up a Sam’s chicken as often as we might have something from that huge cast-iron stove. And we’ve had cold salads and fruit and melons and BLTs and just-one-hot-thing for weeks now, fending off the temperatures, taking in the COOL.

He generally makes a huge pot of his incomparable Creamed Corn (worthy of capitals) on the weekend, and we’ll enjoy a heated-up bowl of it with just a tomato sandwich on a night or two. Or we’ll “walk out” to the restaurant nearby, where we’ll go this evening, with our little one having a “Sleepover”---possibly the last before their trip to the beach.

I always apologize for my lack of gumption to get into the kitchen these hot hot days---there’s not been Such A Summer in our twenty years here---and he soothes with murmurs of solace and enjoyment of whatever we ARE having. I didn't know that "Dewiiichuh" spoken around a mouthful of food COULD be such a compliment.

You know, in all my years before, in that mind-numbing, body-blasting heat of the Summer South, I didn’t know how NOT to cook. It was just what you did---all that steamy canning and preserving and pickling, whilst the peas and cornbread and dumplings and all those other homey concoctions simmered and baked and stewed, adding their own elevation to the meal and to the temperatures AND tempers.

Last night’s was a lovely Summer supper---elevated by the sum of its parts and just perfect in itself---a humble pot of vegetables, cooked long and SLOW in the old Southern manner, crusty, warm cornbread cooked upstairs in the “middle” oven to save heating up the big stove, the crisp-fried tender pork, the tangy punctuation of the onion, and those tomatoes, which could have stood alone, or beside the best dish of any chef of any age.

Home Grown Tomatoes---I pity the folks who passed them up for centuries just because they thought them to be poison. The risk would have been worth it.


sparrowgrass said...

I haven't been cooking much either. By the time I take my hour (or more) in pool after work, and pick what needs picking out of the garden, it is 7:30 or 8, and I am too tired to be cooking.

Lately, supper has been a couple of tomatoes and cukes, cut into chunks, and dressed with salt and garlic mashed to a paste, a glug of olive oil and a double glug of cider or balsamic vinegar. And of course, I have to eat the rest of that watermelon that I cut up the other day, and I bought a peck of peaches (seconds--that means that they are too ripe to ship) so I have to eat some of those. And I have to eat all those things before the fruit flies get numerous enough to stage a coup and take over the kitchen.

Family reunion was Sunday, and I made a big ol' bowl of cowboy caviar--one can each of garbanzos, black beans, hominy and shoepeg corn, and dressed with salsa. Good as a salad, or eaten with chips. That makes a good dinner with no cooking.

Time enough to cook when the winter winds blow. Summer is for outdoors.

Klary Koopmans said...

rachel, I would have loved some of your tomatoes straight from the vine! and some cornbread too, please...

Southern Lady said...

Goodness gracious, Rachel ... you have my mouth watering for some of those peas and okra and cornbread, not to mention the tomatoes! I can do without the pork chops ... just give me the vegetables anytime! Lewis Grizzard once said that "it's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato," and there's a whole lot of truth in that. Nothing is any more ""Dewiiichuh!"

Sherrie said...

I am so hungry. Just the way you described supper, makes my mouth water and want to show up at your house with fork and knife in hand. Yum Yum. I also wanted to say thanks for stopping by with your good thoughts about the shop. You cracked me up when you referred to your house as Goodwill House. Mine too. Have a great day.

Tonja said...

Oh, there is nothing as fine as a home grown tomato! Nothing! I like it cut into chunks, salted, but the dollop on top of mine must be Kraft! So, good! And a BLT on very fresh Colonial Bread!

Now, I've gone and gotten hungry!

Kouign Aman said...

Hot days = bruschetta. Or gazpacho. Or take out. :)

Kim Shook said...

Oh, Rachel! I feel the same – apologetic about what little cooking I do. But I wouldn’t feel any shame if I were serving up the wonderful meals you are describing! Peeled tomatoes! I didn’t know anyone did that anymore. My grandmother ALWAYS did and they are so perfect that way. But I get in a rush and slice them willy-nilly on a paper plate and serve them right on that self-same plate – juices, seeds and all. Just like trash. And if our favorite Chinese restaurant was right out our back gate, we’d eat there 4 nights a week!

Speaking of preserves – I peeled and cut up almost 10 lbs. of Grandma Jean’s pears tonight – pulled off her tree at the last minute as we were leaving Sunday. They are sitting in two big stainless bowls, covered in lemon juice and sugar. I’ll cook them down for hours tomorrow as the kitchen temperature rises to match the outside inferno – in spite of the blessed AC!

Country fried pork? Recipe, please!!!