My mother used to grow the most stunning tomatoes.
Her plants produced beautifully imperfect globes in shades of red, yellow, green and purple. Some no bigger than a nickel across, others -- the would-be prize-winners -- as big as melons and just as heavy.
Although I've been growing tomatoes for years, mine never seem to turn out quite like hers. They’re always missing whatever would be needed to nudge them from good to superb. And my mother made it all seem so effortless.
When the first monster (big, gnarly, unwieldy) tomatoes from my mother's garden would finally ripen, we'd savor them simply first: sawing thick, glistening slices, lathering sourdough toast with mayonniase, crushing a pinch of flaky sea salt between our fingers.
Then we'd sit together in silence at the creaky old farm table in her kitchen, savoring our sandwiches, surveying the garden.
That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. And yet, it's hard think of a more satisfying way to enjoy a beautiful tomato.
My mother -- and my own garden -- have been gone for several years now. But each summer, I still make that same ceremonious sandwich with the first ripe tomatoes of the season, and I suspect I'll be making it each summer to come.