Ingredient: Tomatoes

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.

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23 Comments

  1. Pat Abood on August 29, 2011 at 9:48 AM

    Such touching memories, Maureen, and so true! Your name in my morning emails adds a little joy to my mornings!

    • Maureen Abood on August 29, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      Knowing you are reading adds joy to my morning, Aunt Pat!

  2. Joel Schorn on August 29, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    Nice post, Maureen. Tomatoes were a big part of my heritage on my Italian side. Everybody grew them in some place or another. I think it was part of their immigrant narrative: go to America, plant tomatoes. I like the romas.

    • Maureen Abood on August 29, 2011 at 9:54 AM

      The Italians and the Lebanese really are cousins, aren’t they. I love your line Joel: go to America, plant tomatoes!!!!!

  3. Tom on August 29, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    I hear tomatoes calling. My step-grandfather, Jay Johnson (I don’t think he was Lebanese or Italian) planted a garden in our back yard each summer when I was a kid and he encouraged us to eat tomatoes fresh from the vine. What a sensuous pleasure. Lunch today will be tomatoes in olive oil–leaning forward, of course.

    • Maureen Abood on August 29, 2011 at 12:16 PM

      Ah yes, Tom, tomatoes calling. Maybe J.J. had a Lebanese streak in him…I always suspected that about you…

      • Tom on September 1, 2011 at 8:46 AM

        That’s quite a compliment. Thanks!

  4. Celine Terranova on August 29, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    Cousin!
    I wholeheartedly agree with your assesment of our Abood family’s love affair with tomatoes. While we know how different our fathers were in personality and in the way they dressed (Uncle Dick loved leisure suits and jeans), they ate a fresh tomato EXACTLY the same way!! Juice on the chin and all. I’m passing “tomato passion” on to my boys.

    • Maureen Abood on August 29, 2011 at 3:12 PM

      Juice on the chin is key!! Tomatoes are in the blood! I’m glad to know that your adorable sons are getting indoctrinated….

  5. Rachel Abood on August 29, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    Thank you Maureen for writing in a unique and personal voice that speaks to all of us. Like Aunt Pat, I look forward to your writings in my mailbox, and save unread messages to savor later. I wish we could easily grow our own tomatoes or buy delicious homegrown tomatoes year round. Seems as though the grocery stores offer the outside beauty with no flavor for so many months of the year.Love to all and Enjoy, Rachel

    • Maureen Abood on August 29, 2011 at 7:48 PM

      Rachel, thank you! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have good tomatoes all year? We’d all be much healthier across the board!!

  6. andrew on August 29, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    you would not believe the many, many heirloom tomatos we have harvested off of just three plants; even give the hot and dry summer……

    • Maureen Abood on August 29, 2011 at 7:48 PM

      Wish I could taste them….

  7. tasteofbeirut on August 29, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    Not wanting to intrude on the family discussion but tomatoes are a big part of any Lebanese; we had them for breakfast with labneh and olives, for a snack after school with hummus sandwiches or cheese ‘arooss, it was a sad time when in the winter we had to deprive ourselves of them; touching passage on your father’s.

    • Maureen Abood on August 30, 2011 at 7:48 AM

      I am glad to see you reference ‘arooss, Joumana!! And it’s true, tomatoes go with just about everything all day long….

  8. Rina Thoma on August 30, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    Beautiful story Maureen. I just love waking up in the morning, sitting down to my computer with my cup of coffee and reading your stories. It’s the perfect way to start my day…everyday. I really mean that. Love and miss you very much:) xoxoxoxo

    • Maureen Abood on August 30, 2011 at 7:49 AM

      I love thinking of you in Germany reading my blog! Can you believe it was a year ago that we started on our cooking adventure?? Love and miss you Rini. Let me know what’s cooking over there….

  9. Katie Miller on August 30, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    BEAUTIFUL photos Maureen. Congratulations on the blog and your successes. My brother Jay passed this on to me today, I was happy to see it. Lovely, touching story about your father. Mine loved growing tomatoes as well.. Thank you.

    • Maureen Abood on August 30, 2011 at 9:37 PM

      Katie, how great to hear from you! Thank you for reading–I hope all is well with you, and nice to know that your dad was a tomato man too…. Keep in touch and maybe our paths will cross again out in San Francisco!!

  10. Geralyn Lasher on August 31, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    I can’t tell you how many times I have re-read this entry…I just love it and it reminds me of my Dad too!

    • Maureen Abood on August 31, 2011 at 3:45 PM

      Great, great men.

  11. Geri Kalush Conklin on September 15, 2011 at 8:56 PM

    Maureen you couldn’t be more right about the love of tomatoes. Yesterday and this morning I got up early and made of Tabouleh using tomatoes, cukes and parsley from my garden to take to work. I used many more tomatoes than usual because they are so good and juicy right now Thinking about it as I did my first few clients I would salivate and ended up eating all of it by 11:00 both days!!!

    • Maureen Abood on September 15, 2011 at 10:44 PM

      Sounds so delicious!!

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