Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Perfect Summer Lunch and Memories of Grandpa

It's a lovely Saturday afternoon.  The sun is shining, but the temperature is a mild 82º right now.  It's nothing at all like the extended heat wave we have experienced here in the Midwest in recent weeks.  There is also a nice little breeze which I welcomed while I was mowing my lawn earlier. They say we might get rain later, and we can certainly use it. 

It was about noon by the time I had finished mowing, so I was ready for a break and a bite of lunch.  I was tired and didn't really want to do any cooking, but I was out of lunch meat and other "easy" stuff. I had a couple of nice tomatoes, some bacon, and a little bit of lettuce, though.  Cooking bacon doesn't constitute REAL cooking, especially when you know you'll end up with the perfect summer lunch: a B.L.T. on toast.


I'm sure you've heard it said a thousand or more times, there's nothing like a freshly picked, ripe tomato. Of course if you're not a tomato lover, you wouldn't care one way or the other. But for those of us who do like them, the difference between freshly picked and "hot house" tomatoes, or those picked early and shipped to the stores is vast.

My grandfather, who was at one time a farmer, planted a huge garden every year and kept it looking pristine.  He was always very proud to sit down to supper and announce that most of the food on the table was fresh from just outside his door.

After I moved to Edwardsville and into a rental house with a yard big enough for a garden, Grandpa encouraged me to plant tomatoes.  So early in the Spring that year, I bought a package of "Big Boy" tomato seeds and planted them in a flat.  I kept the flat inside and in front of a south facing window so it would get plenty of sunshine.  My ultimate goal was to do the transplanting outside after the risk of frost had passed.  Not long after I planted the seeds and the little sprouts were just emerging from the soil, my grandparents came for a visit.  Grandpa spied my miniature garden, "What do you have growing in that flat?"  I reminded him that he had suggested I plant tomatoes, so that's what I'd done.  "Well, I didn't mean from seed.  I meant you should buy a couple of tomato plants and set them out later.  You'll never get anything out of those spindly little things.  Wait'll next month and go get yourself a few good sized plants."  Well thank you very much, Grandpa!  The gauntlet had been thrown. I kept my scrawny little seedlings.  As they began to get bigger, I thinned them and chose the best of the lot to set in the ground after Easter (one of Grandpa's rules of thumb).  A few months later, I took a picture of my son holding a big bowl of beautiful, ripe tomatoes fresh from my garden.  I proudly showed the photo to my Grandfather and reminded him of those hopeless little seedlings.  He smiled, "Well I'll be."  I could tell he was proud too.  While I couldn't for the life of me find that photo of my son and those tomatoes, maybe you won't mind the substitute above.  It's a peck of tomatoes I had picked from our garden on another summer's day a few years later.

What's better than the perfect summer lunch and all those juicy tomatoes?  The memory of my Grandpa, his encouragement, and that little moment in time that I hope never to forget.

Here's to you, Grandpa!

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