A Round of Tomato Sandwiches for All
My mother never met a tomato sandwich she didn’t like. Every summer, wherever she was (which was always as close to a beach as possible,) she would find a local tomato purveyor– usually an old lady or man selling homegrown produce at a roadside stand. She’d seek out giant juicy orbs, the more misshapen, the better. From June until October, when the last of the local crop disappeared, Mom plowed through pounds of them.
During the season, a tomato sandwich-making station took over a corner of whatever kitchen she inhabited. At our home in Caldwell, there was often an opened loaf of bread standing in front of the toaster oven, whose pull- down door stood ajar, awaiting the next load. A jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise, with the lid cast aside and a tablespoon buried in whatever was left in the jar, stood ready for duty.
My mom was very opinionated on a number of topics, and Hellman’s mayonnaise was one of them. To serve anything else was scandalous. She was right about this and most things, of course. To this day, I gag whenever I taste any other commercially prepared brand.
In the throes of her tomato sandwich preparation, mom often bypassed the cutting board completely, simply slicing the fruit right on the white kitchen counter, where she left the remainder of the tomato lying in a pool of its own juice. Tiny tomato seeds floated down the counter in a trail toward the place where the toasted bread awaited its load.
Clink went the spoon against the swollen sides of the jar as mom wrangled the mayonnaise on top of her creation. A large mayonnaise-stained wooden pepper mill towered over the other ingredients, ready to arm the sandwich for entry into mom’s mouth.
Oh, how she loved them, consuming them, morning, noon, and night. She never stopped waxing about the glories of the Jersey tomato.
Mom is gone now, but when I find myself at the farmers’ markets–there are no roadside stands with little old ladies anymore–I am drawn to the tomatoes like a coin to a magnet. When I served them in the dorm the other day, I could have set up a stand and earned my airfare home to Poland. Yes, they were that good.
Naked compared to hers, my version is simple: Toast and a thick slab of just- picked tomato with a generous layer of freshly ground pepper.
How do you like yours?