If you grew up in the South , as I did, you will remember fresh tomato sandwiches on soft white bread with mayonnaise oozing out the sides, sweet and juicy and tangy. These were a staple at lunch, accompanied by Charles Chips (delivered to your doorstep in a can) and a glass of Dr. Pepper on ice. My parents would search out the best truck stands and purchase cardboard boxes of the luciouse red globes. My mother, a true tomato fanatic, would dole out slices of the succulent fruit, one slice per sandwich at lunch, one and a half slices per child at dinner. Fortunately, my little sister didn’t care for tomatoes and I believe that is one reason why Mom always liked her best. By the end of the summer, my brother and I had acid sores in our mouths, but who cared?
Mom kept the tomatoes in a wooden bowl with a southwestern design, and she guarded that bowl like a bear when neighbors or relatives strayed too close to it. It was not unusual to see a delicate cloud of fruit flies hovering around the bowl during the hottest days of the summer.
My father tried for years to grow tomatoes worthy of this kind of adoration, and at first he had some real success with the original Big Boys, then Better Boys, and finally Rutgers, but, strangely, each year the taste dwindled a little, the tomatoes got smaller, the skins thicker. There is no greater culinary loss than that of a heavenly taste from the past that cannot be recaptured. In their later years my parents would reminisce about the good old tomatoes, as some would recall the good old times, wistfully recounting an old friend who had passed away, gone but not forgotten.