Friday, May 14, 2010


I feel like I'm channelling Jane Espenson, but -- lunch was sharp cheddar on an onion kaiser with grape tomatoes. I'm still nibbling at the tomatoes, relishing that pop of sweet acid as the globe gives way. All the responsible foodies say one thing we have to change is returning to eating seasonally, which means tomatoes only in the warm months. Which is when they taste best anyhow. But it will be hard for me to give them up all year. They feel female and dialectic and Texan to my palate.

First letter I ever wrote to Liza Cowan was in 1977 to ask why she and Penny House had named their publishing venture Tomato Publications. First mail I ever got back from her was a hand-designed postcard which began, in classic Liza style, "Why not?"

Mama grew lovely tomatoes in the summer but her veggies of choice were snap beans and onions. She liked to slather thick slices of brown bread with butter and add slices of raw onion to make a sandwich she'd eat with iced coffee. I tried a bite when I was little and found it horrific. She said "Your taste changes as you grow up, don't worry about it." She was right on so many levels.

When we had buttermilk in the house, Mama would make fresh cornbread, crumble some into a jelly glass and fill it with buttermilk to eat like a dessert. She said it was a dish she'd seen her grandmother enjoy, farm gourmet fare. I wonder how many people in America still call the milk we buy in cartons "sweet milk" automatically to distinguish it from buttermilk? Or clabber milk -- how many of you out there have ever tasted clabber milk?

I can remember when milk first began coming in waxed paper cartons instead of glass. Mama resisted the paper containers as long as she could, saying it tasted better in glass. Now, except for a premium in natural food stores, our only option is plastic jugs.

Well, with the death of oil I guess we'll be returning to glass bottles. They were so useful, for making sun tea, or having a brief aquarium of pollywogs, or starting sprouts on the windowsill. One time I talked Mama into buying me a set of food colors at the grocery store and I spent a week mixing colored water in glass bottles, lining the windows of my room with them. That's how I learned color combining. They all went cloudy brown when the bacteria began growing, however.

It's important to remember that our flirtation with "factory food" is a brief experiment born of hubris and the need to keep post-WWI men from returning to farming. The notion that we can replace nature with monoculture -- that it could possibly be a good idea -- arises from patriarchal fear of that which they see as Not Male. Their fratboy g*d promised them dominion over the earth and sea, and they can't seem to get enough of exercising that dominion.

Well gird your loins, fellas. Literally. Because the tomato-lovers and glassblowers are massing in the courtyard. See you there.


C. Diva said...

ah, but in Texas you have tomatoes in season AT LEAST 2 months longer than anyone else in the country.
Just sign me envious and nostalgic.

Maggie Jochild said...

True. I think it will be very soon that the first Early Girls hit the local farmer's markets. I love Cherokees and Purple Stripes when I can find them. It's our trade-off for 60 days of 100 degrees plus each year.

C. Diva said...

and our tomato plants are still in red plastic shawls. Our swiss chard is about ready, but that's it.