Tuesday, 29 July 2014 | 33 comments

Tomatoes. Notes.

Summer conjures images of lazy days, hammocks, beaches, bare feet, lemonade…all that good stuff. Let’s pretend for a moment that that’s why I’ve been so absent here.

That was nice.

The real reason is that I’m in a season of lots of work, work travel, and more wedding weekends than a person should be able to attend and still come out sane on the other side (we’ve had to turn the experience into a Bingo-style game to survive). Combine this with the fact that I coordinate our summer farm market, a few black bear incidents, the death of one friend, the birth of another friend’s baby…I’m a little spent.

There are two kinds of people in the world. In the face of the uncomfortable, some look hopefully to the sunny side or to the next thing, summon their courage, and soldier on. Others stop, examine the wound, and try to get to the bottom of it. I’m the latter. Pick the scab open: that’s how I function. Busy times throw me into mild existential crises. I scribble a lot in notebooks about what “balance” really means. I probably complain a lot (sorry, B).

Summer emphasizes the differences between swampy, grey-brown, concrete DC and the Virginia countryside, which practically vibrates with humidity and insect noise and berries busting out. Once someone told me that my life sounded “liminal”, and I dwell too much on that phrase (picking at the scab again). It’s still cool in the mornings when Ben drops me off at the train. The ducks are just starting their sleepy morning chatter. I carry a bag that usually has a laptop, a change of shoes, makeup, sometimes a few dozen eggs (I’ve been running a pretty good egg racket at the office). Scenery changes from green-green-cows-river to suburbia to monuments and motorcades. By the time I step off the train, I’ve smudged on some eye makeup, made my hair presentable, and put on real shoes. The pavement’s already steaming when I let myself into the office. The guy at the Dupont Circle metro plays jazz trumpet. There are a lot of people with Starbucks cups. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that my home is a real place. Some days this thrills me, others it depresses. (Pick pick pick.)

Here’s a litany of the good things that have poked through the cracks in the midst of the madness, just to remind me:

It’s tomato time again, which thrills me to no end, so pretty much any spare time I have is spent 1) wishing mine would actually ripen 2) buying them from other people 3) making tomato sandwiches. I took about 20 pounds of “seconds” off my friend Kevin’s hands and put up 9 quarts of crushed tomatoes the other day. If you’re a canner, I tried two new things which might be of interest: first, I froze them all ahead of time because I couldn’t use them right away. When you thaw the tomatoes, the skins slip right off—amazing, and no need for boiling/cold water bath. Second, I tried out Tattler lids (BPA free, resuable, they didn’t pay me to say this!) and really liked them. No problems whatsoever, easy to use, solid seals. Of course, if you’d rather eat your tomatoes now, there’s this tomato recipe booklet I put together last year, too.

Whether it’s the sunshine-and-lemonade or humid-concrete-jungle variety, I hope you’re enjoying the fruits of the season, too.


§ 33 responses to Tomatoes. Notes.

  • Your home and surrounding looks like a dream. I live in a city and dream about place like yours :) And this tomatoes <3

  • Gosh I love your blog! Really, it is my favorite. Thanks for showing that there is room on the internet and in the blogosphere for honesty and that putting some beauty out into the world doesn’t mean you have to paint as perfect.

  • Stacy

    Thanks for keepin it real. I love that you talk about pretty and ugly and all the weirdness that goes on in our heads.

  • Yes! Busy times always send me into a spiral of deep life evaluation. Your blog is so wonderful. Hello from the swampy grey (where I dream of countryside)!

  • I live in D.C but dream of a house in the country some day. where I can grow m,y own food and see the stars :-) Love your blog.

  • cat

    Hello – I enjoyed reading about your transition every morning as you commute to work. I too commute from the rural edges of Ottawa, Ontario into the city and some days I’m exhilarated by this transition and other days I really struggle with it. Anyway, just wanted to reach out to say how much I enjoy your space and the meaningful issues/ideas/conundrums that you ponder and share with your readers. Have a lovely rest-of-the-week!

  • Mary

    I love your blog too. Thank you.

  • Maybe there is something about the extra long, extra cold winter we had that seems to have made this summer so crazy/busy. Glad you had time to come up for air. I always enjoy readying whatever you have to say, whenever you have time to say it!

  • Yes — on all accounts. Too many weddings. The unhinging of death. And a need for new canning lids. Here’s to joy amidst all the madness!

  • Sam

    Everything you write is so beautiful Sarah – so inspirational. My grandpa died in May and since then I’ve thought so much about the lovely tribute to your grandfather you shared here. Sorry about the death of your friend, you guys seem too young to be facing that.

    (And amen to wedding insanity – I just got married in a very fun and happy great big wedding and I still think if I had a do-over I’d take the advice of the wise people who told us to just head to the courthouse, no fuss.)

  • Thank you for the reminder about the tomato booklet you put together last summer! It’s been too cold here for ripe tomatoes yet, but I’m going to revisit those recipes once August hits.

  • A friend told me about the tip of freezing the tomatoes instead of blanching last year… can’t wait to try that before canning this year. I’m suffering the same green tomato impatience that you are. They need to hurry!

    • Seriously, if you have the room in the freezer, the freezing trick is amazing. It’s just pleasant to have cold tomatoes, too, in the whole process of steamy hot water bath canning. —S

  • Oh Yay! That’s literally what I said to myself when I saw you had a new post. I always love to read your writing, its like a mini summer vacation for my brain. Thank you.

  • Margit Van Schaick

    Thank you for your wonderful scenes of Summer essence. BTW, you can make a quick chopped tomato side dish with thawed frozen whole tomatoes, seasoned with whatever you fancy, depending on the time of year and what’s available. I try to have a big supply of whole frozen tomatoes whenever possible. The taste of Summer at a moment’s notice! Your blog is just so inspiring: I take a deep breath and begin to dream—-

  • your photos are great! i’m an unabashed mildly rural girl myself, and so happy to skip the city except when i want… glad you like your transistions most days…

  • Margit Van Schaick

    Just re-read your post (as I often do), and your mention of “liminal” to describe your life. This reminds me of a time in my life when I was fully immersed in a similar combining of family life, work, school, and travel—in such a way that not only was I experiencing intense living in all these various spheres, but it also included geographically separate spaces (like, for example, driving an hour at dawn to Detroit airport and flying to Boston every Thursday for 13 weeks to attend Radcliffe Institute, leaving my three children for the day with my then-husband, using a vacation day from my full-time job, arriving at Harvard Square with a rush of feeling that I was exactly where I wanted to be, flying home at dinner-time to re-engage with my every-day world.) I loved it! It felt like I was living at least two lives, in the same 24-hour day. Since that time, I think that, sometimes without realizing it, I’ve been trying to re-create that abundant living, for the sheer energy and zest , but the truth is that you need to sleep enough to carry it off, for one does get tired. Sarah, “pick,pick” at it is the way to go, so you can grab on to what is really happening, and adjust as needed. Wishing you all the best!

  • What a relief to know that I’m not the only notebook scribbling scab picker. It always feels a little like neurosis, but it helps to have company. :) Hang in there… Thanks for the canning tips too.

  • Meg

    Lovely! Living in this part of Alaska, I only have dreams about fresh, ripe tomatoes. Enjoy!

  • Lisa

    I also often question what balance means when life is busy. Perhaps my favorite definition is a metaphor I heard once: if you attempt to balance a sheet of paper on the tip of your finger, you will find yourself constantly moving in order to keep it there. In my opinion, it’s not about finding the golden mean and sitting still on top of it. Life is constantly in flux.

  • Sarah! Life contains it all, and your writing too. I love how you move us through it as-is, and then let it be. I always leave here thinking. I can’t wait to try the tomato freezing trick before canning – in the meantime, we’re enjoying thick slices with salt and garlic-marinated green beans. It’s high summer lady – enjoy.

  • Marie

    Great blog. Found it through a link on Food in Jars. Was wondering though, when you freeze your tomatoes…how do you do it? They don’t look cut up in the picture. Did you just wash them and put in the freezer bags? I’m interested in trying this but fear I need more info. Thanks!

  • Jo Kurdziel

    I love the tomato recipes booklet and have been trying out each of the recipes as my tomatoes ripen. Thank you for these great ideas. I have one question about the “curry of tomatoes and chickpeas” . Did you perhaps omit an ingredient from the list, maybe tomato paste or something else, that gives your curry a deep garnet color while mine is a creamy yellow (flecked with red tomatoes) as one would expect from the turmeric and coconut milk. It was delicious but did not look like your photo at all.

    • Hi Jo,

      The photo on that page was actually of the tomato jam cooking :) Confusing, sorry about that! Yes, the curry should be a golden-rosy color. I’m glad you enjoyed it, though!

  • Have just discovered your site and I’m glad I did. It’s lovely.
    Will be back for more.

  • Kaye L

    I made the tomato jam and will be making more tonight. Thank you for the fantastic recipe! (without all the “sweet” spices….yours rocks!)

    • So glad you liked! I know what you mean about the ‘sweet’ spices. I did about 20 half pints of the jam this year because we use it so much. Thanks! —S

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