Tastes change as we get older, don’t they? There are many foods I loved as a kid that I find myself kind of grossed-out by when I sample them as I get older (most of it mass-produced sweet shit, so this isn’t a bad thing). On the flip side, there are quite a few foods that I disliked in my younger years that I find myself coming to like a great deal. Many of these are vegetables, which is a good thing! I don’t see myself ever turning the corner on broccoli–that one will always be a bridge too far for me–but over the last ten to fifteen years I’ve taken more and more a liking to olives, mushrooms, and even asparagus! Preparation helps a lot: I’m not likely to ever like steamed asparagus much, but grilled asparagus, brushed with olive oil and dusted with kosher salt prior to grilling? That’s good stuff.
But today, I’m talking about the tomato.
Like most people in this country, tomato-based stuff has always loomed large in my diet: pasta sauce, pizza sauce, and yes, ketchup. (I use ketchup less now than I once did, but I still like it on a burger and it’s my dip of choice for fried potatoes of all kinds.) But raw tomatoes? I was always a hard “Nope” on those. I remember getting frustrated with my parents when they’d take my sister and I out for pizza and then order raw tomato slices as one of the toppings. Whenever I went to Subway or Burger King, I always ordered my sub or Whopper with no tomatoes.
I’m not sure really when I started reversing course on this stuff, to be honest. It’s not a new development. At some point…I dunno, maybe I got a Whopper with the tomatoes left on and I didn’t feel like complaining and I just went with it. Or I tried the tomato-and-onion vinaigrette thing that comes as a side dish with the Chiavetta’s Barbecue Chicken dinner at the Erie County Fair and liked it. Or…well, I don’t know. Most likely The Wife, observing one of her family’s food traditions, decided on August to make BLTs for dinner, and I decided to just go ahead and try the tomato on the thing instead of just going with a BL, and discovered that it was actually good.
On reflection, it’s interesting to note how many of my food-opinion reversals have arisen because I didn’t want to be a pain in the ass to The Wife, who was being nice enough to make dinner. So, long story short, I’ve enjoyed raw tomatoes for a while now. (Although I haven’t tried raw slices on my pizza. Maybe I should!)
One thing I never tried before, because I didn’t know it was a thing, was the Tomato Sandwich. I’d never heard of such a thing until a week ago when I read this article on Food 52:
The tomato sandwich is, in my opinion, both under and over-appreciated, depending on the camp you fall into. Some just don’t appreciate the magic of a perfect tomato sandwich, while others, like me, think about it more often than is technically healthy. (I figure if fantasizing about tomato sandwiches is among the worst of my vices, I’m probably okay.) When tomato season is in full swing I tend to have a tomato sandwich for lunch at least three days a week.
It’s nothing fancy, but over the years I tweaked until I came up with the tomato sandwich that best suits my taste: two pieces of whole grain toast spread with mayo and stuffed as generously as possible with slices of ripe tomato, plus some salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
I saw that linked on social media, read the article, and immediately thought, “I gotta try that.” As luck had it, I read that article last Saturday morning, before our first trip of the season to the Hamburg Farmers Market (opened a month later than usual due to the damnable COVID-19), and when I saw a vendor selling tomatoes, I bought a couple because I just had to try that sandwich. How simple a concept, how elegant a recipe! Toasted bread, mayo, tomato slices, salt, and pepper. Even though the tomatoes aren’t in season yet–I assume that Market vendor grew them in a greenhouse–I went full-speed ahead. I got the tomatoes home, sliced one on my mandoline, and assembled the sandwich.
Then I ate it so quickly I didn’t even think to get a picture of it until I was done and basking in the heavenly flavor.
So here is yesterday’s tomato sandwich. I had to make another one as soon as we got home again from the Farmers Market, this time having bought a quart of tomatoes.
This sandwich is utter heaven. The salt and the pepper and the mayo combine with the juices of the tomato to make the most wonderful sauce for the toasted bread, and of course there’s the delightful coolness of the tomato slices themselves. After eating my second one of these in a week, I find myself wondering if in all the years of having BLTs each August during tomato season, my favorite part of the sandwich has actually not been the bacon after all.
All hail the mighty tomato!