Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky

Tomatoes

T

Laura and I don’t like tomatoes. Is it genetic? Probably not. It does, however, puzzle Mom.

Mom loves tomatoes. She told me yesterday that when she was pregnant with me she craved them. Her dad would buy them for her. She learned to eat them in sections, so they didn’t drip.

I joked that maybe that’s when I got tired of them. A raised eyebrow. She’s skeptical about that one.

When the subject comes up, I tell people I don’t eat them because tomatoes are poisonous. That was a real belief. (See Why the Tomato Was Feared in Europe for More Than 200 Years.) No one ever gets it. The usual reaction is “No, they aren’t.” Sigh.

When I was growing up, we usually had tomato slices at dinner. When we lived in Logan we put sugar on them. After Mom married Carroll and we moved to Mantua, no more sugar. He was a food fascist. We could put salt on them or eat them plain. Nothing else. He ate his with salt and pepper. That boy put salt and pepper on just about everything, even his buttermilk and cottage cheese.

So, I stopped eating tomatoes. Mostly.

When we lived in Las Vegas, there are no bees to pollinate tomatoes. Mom still planted them. It was my job to go out with a little paintbrush and gently brush the flowers in order to pollinate them. Also my job to pull off the tomato worms. (I never thought about it before. Where did tomato worms come from in an area and climate where people don’t grow tomatoes?)

Talking yesterday, Mom wondered if I remember whether Evonne liked tomatoes. Most certainly, she did. The reason I remember is that when Evonne married Danny they clashed on the right way to make stew. Danny thought stew was supposed have a gravy base. Evonne thought it was supposed to have a tomato base.

And that reminds me of another piece of my childhood. Every year Mom would put up I don’t know how many bushels of stewed tomatoes. Aunt Betty did the same. I suppose those tomatoes went into quite a few different dishes through the year, but the I remember is stew. I don’t know the recipe but I’m pretty sure it must have started with “Put two quarters of stewed tomatoes in a sauce pan.”

I was happy enough to leave the family stew recipe and tomatoes behind when I left home. Evonne dug in for tradition.

Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky
Justin Swanstrom

Justin Swanstrom

Made in America. Retired attorney. Bookseller at Shining Lotus. No Nazis in Valhalla. He/him.

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