I have to reference my father again this week, because we are eating tomatoes, and tomatoes were his favorite. His glory. His perfect food. Must be a Lebanese hereditary trait, because it extends far and wide in the Abood and Abowd families (my mother’s maiden name, Abowd, is almost exactly the same as her husband’s, but no relation. I repeat, no relation). Here then are two of the many images that come to mind when I contemplate the tomato:
My father in the garden, having just pulled a tomato from the vine, and eating it as you would an apple. His face is leaning out so he doesn’t get juice on his white shirt—the shirt he wore with his suit to work that day, tie off now but still wearing the shirt with sleeves rolled back once, and dress slacks. It is a fact that I never saw my father in a pair of jeans, despite his propensity to garden. He called them “dungarees,” so you can gather how he felt about them.
My father again, in the last weeks of his life, planting beefsteak tomatoes. He placed them in pots in view from the two rooms in the house where he would spend most of his time those weeks, laying on the couches, until at last he went upstairs to bed and did not come back down. I sat with him and read to him, or just listened to classical music and looked out the window. He commented on how green the grass was, how big the trees were getting, how red the tomatoes would be. The tomatoes were, to me, his code for hope, his affirmation of life in the face of the reality of what was to come, and soon. He talked about how the tomatoes would grow and bear fruit as though he would be there to pull one off, in his white shirt sleeves, and eat it.
We’re eating tomatoes three times a day now, as though eating as many tomatoes as possible will stave off summer’s end. This week we’ll make a tomato salad that will change your life. Those of you who have been too busy to stuff squash or stir apricot preserves will find this one fits right into your day.