There is one simple pleasure that I look forward to every year. It is my first toasted tomato sandwich of the season. I'm not talking about a sandwich that is made with hard, imported, tasteless tomatoes. I'm talking about using a real, local, field ripened tomato which means something you can't have in my home town until August.
When I was a kid my mother grew magnificent Beefsteak tomatoes, which are almost impossible to find now. The tomatoes were so large that one slice would cover the entire piece of bread. But of course, you didn't use just one slice of tomato. My mother and brother didn't share the passion for the tomato sandwich that my dad and I did, so it was a summer ritual for the two of us. It was more or less understood that the first ripe tomato to come off the vine belonged to us. We had a two slot toaster, and being the sweet guy that he was, my dad would always make my sandwich first. Of course, it was always white bread, this being the suburbs in the 60's and 70's. He would carefully butter the toast, put the tomato slices on, put on way too much mayonnaise, grind lots of pepper on to it and then pass it to me with a flourish that comes from the knowledge that you have just created the perfect meal. Eating it was a challenge because the mixture of tomato juice and mayonnaise made it a very drippy affair and we often did it on the back porch to lesson the mess. In fact, trying to eat a tomato sandwich without toasting the bread resulted in a sodden mess that disintegrated when you tried to pick it up.
Times change, and I now make the sandwiches with bread that's more complex and sophisticated than the plain white bread of my childhood. My mother's tomatoes are different too, but that's okay. I still put way too much mayonnaise and lots of pepper on the sandwich and I look forward to the rush of pleasure when I take the first bite. And it always makes me think of my dad.