Tomatoes… lots of tomatoes… It seems to me that every year I have this thing with tomatoes, and this year I was well served.
Two years ago I canned tomatoes with a real Italian mama, who’s only word throughout the day was ‘Aspeta!’ On a Saturday in mid-September, I saw an unholy number of nearly too ripe Roma tomatoes go from whole to sauce. A few days later I was in possession of 12 jars of fabulousness that I enjoyed during the coldest months of the year. I’m still dreaming of the wild goose, orange zest, kalamata olive, and basil tomato sauce over spinach tagliatelle and topped with a duvet of pecorino cheese.
Last year I went a bit overboard with fresh tomatoes. Every Saturday Vincent at the Birri stand would put together a sampling of his favourites and the freshest from the garden. I devoured the teardrop tomatoes, tossed the baby black cherries into any and all salads, and was amused by the yellow Roma. I don’t know how many recipes I made with tomatoes between the months of August and September, but surely it is best not to calculate the scope of my seasonal compulsive food obsessions.
I would really like to say that the third year was a year of redress, but alas this was not the case. It would be wrong to blame the significant other because that would not be accepting my own fault, but his equally large love for tomatoes did not help my cause. And unfortunately, now that we are two fanatics, the damage was much, much heavier… about 8kg worth in one evening…
At the organic market in the centre of Reims, there are a few colourful individuals who grow some rather remarkable veggies and fruits. And perhaps it was the Indian-summer heat, but we were swayed last Friday by the general frenzy of the market and the enormous selection. As we stood in line and waited patiently at our respective stands, we exchanged glances filled with silent code meant not to alert those ahead of us of the impending ravage:
He: Nods to his left and mouths silently “Tu veux les Green Zebra pour faire des sauces?”
She: Nods, squints as she looks over the shoulder of the man in front of her and replies, also silently “Il reste des petites Crimées”.
The anticipation is palatable and the thought that we might not get our treasures horrifying. Finally, we have the attention of the farmer. And we proceed to unleash our bewildering order: 1kg of Green Zebras, 1kg of yellow tomatoes, all of the Andes variety, at least another kilo of the pink tomatoes, and yes, we would like the five ripe Black of Crimea. And what are those orange monsters in the back there? Pinapple tomatoes? We’ll take them all. At the next stand we took at least a kilo of a variety mix of cherry tomatoes, representing about one third of that vendor’s offer. The gasps of horror behind us were deafening as the next customers in line realized the supply had just been greatly depleted.
It was only after purchasing the beautues that we realized that we had taken our bikes and the road home was full of cobblestones.
After a flurry of cooking and preparing, we are now in possession of five different tomatoes sauces, each representing a different tomato variety, a bowl full of eating tomatoes for salads and other immediate uses, a Tupperware filled with slices of dried cherry tomatoes in every color, and a jar of dried cherry tomatoes in top-quality olive oil to drizzle over everything when we need a boost of sunshine this winter.
This year the tomato fiasco, it was a combination of the two previous years – a blend of learning, know-how, and the desire to capture the seasons. However this time we did it in every permutation and with new methods and varieties. But the most amazing part of the experience this year was having it with someone else and knowing that we would enjoy these fruits of our labour together for the rest of the year. Finally I understand why the Italians call the tomato the ‘love apple’…