tomato melon broken down truck day

One of my favorite things about summer is that I get to eat tomato sandwiches. Of course tomatoes are available at the grocery store throughout the year, but it's only in the summer that they're worth eating because that's when you can get them straight out of the garden. Just in case you don't know, this is how to make them:

assemble the following:

one just off-the-vine,
preferably heirloom tomato,
with a good balance of sweet and acidic,
sliced thick

buttermilk bread, lightly toasted


I grew up thinking I didn't like tomatoes. Actually, that's true for a lot of produce: corn, peas, carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe, pineapple, lettuce, spinach... I still don't love green beans, but I don't despise them either, like I did when I thought that the sickly yellowish rubbery things that come out of the can are just they way they are. And I'm still wary of beets and turnips. But, OH! Lettuce straight out of the garden! Tender and buttery, not bitter and dry. And cantaloupe! I used to loathe cantaloupe, but that was before I'd ever had one that was aromatic as a flower, sweet like candy, with a melt-in-your mouth texture. But you just can't get such a thing in a store. It's a crime, what we've been denied in the name of availability and economy. Thank god for farmer's markets.

Speaking of my former dislike of cantaloupes, the funniest part of it is that I'm now selling the things. My father-in-law is a farmer -- a sort of gentleman farmer, a horticulturist. He went to school to learn about this stuff, late in life. And now he's known in these parts as "the melon man" -- I'm constantly running into people in our medium-sized town who know him. "Oh, you're related to the melon man!" people say, gushing. I gain instant good will by association. I think it's partly because in the climate in which we live, it's not the easiest thing to grow melons. So people really appreciate someone who can. Partly also because my father-in-law so genuinely enjoys his vocation, and people respond to that.

The coolest thing about it, though, is that the kids get to be part of the market sub-culture. It's just a really neat thing, and I'm very grateful for it in our lives. Not that it's particularly easy. Today I did a market by myself, with all four children. It was a busy market, too. I'm exhausted. Field work is hard work, but you can get to this sort of zen place with it. It's much harder to get to when people are constantly coming at you, a steady flow of them, expecting a smile, a recommendation, correct change, for four hours straight.

Funnily enough, the zen place came at a time when I'd normally least expect it: when, on the way home from market, the truck broke down. After the initial torrent of swearing, and after I realized that we going to be able to get safely out of traffic, I fell into a deep calm. It occurred to me how great it was that I'd already dropped off the crates, that I wasn't on the highway, that it wasn't raining. My oldest is big enough now (!!!) that he was able to push this huge truck while I steered in neutral. I was pretty amazed by that, and then not surprised after all. We sat on the grass under a shady tree near the curb and drank soda and listened to barking dogs. A Fed Ex driver with a kind face stopped to ask if he could help. The baby wanted her brother to hold her hand, hugging her baby doll to her with her other. We walked through a neighborhood of happy-looking bungalows we'd never slowed down enough to notice before, where the air was still and golden and the houses fronted by wildflower gardens. Cars stopped for us when we needed to cross a busy road. We walked by a skate park shaded by trees and a freeway, populated by dozens of teenagers, being free for the time being. Strangely, I didn't feel an urge to hurry, and didn't feel burdened by the heat and by the slower pace of the children and by the heavy bag I was carrying. We walked like it was just exactly what we wanted to do.

We were really tired when we finally got home. Not too tired to make a tomato sandwich, though. Made with tomatoes which, by the way, my son bought as a present for me. He doesn't like tomatoes, but he knows how much I love them, and my plants are not bearing much yet. He was thinking of me when he wasn't with me, of something that would make me happy. It gives me such a feeling of security, that he loves me like this. Sometimes, at times like this, you feel like that's all there really is, that it's all there really needs to be.

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