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Posted By Debra Shiveley Welch
Ripe, red and round, I bite deeply. Juice runs down my chin and within the core of this plump, luscious orb, I taste sunshine. Mawmaw is waiting for the green beans I am to pick for lunch, but she knows that my duties in the garden will take a little longer than expected. I am a forager, a nibbler, a taster of bounty. I bite again and my mouth is filled with glorious, sweet, warm fruit.
 
"Youngin' you eat more 'an you pick!" she cries, smiling and shaking her head.
 
I choose a few extras and place them in my basket. They are warm and bursting, fat and juicy. Mawmaw will slice them and put them on a platter and we will feast upon large, meaty Beefsteak, sweet golden streaked German Stripe, beautiful, delicious, creamy Golden Yellow; slices so large, they fill a plate.
 
We sit and join hands. Pawpaw says the blessing, gives me a wink and passes a plate filled with golden fried circles.   I question with raised eyebrows and dig in. Fried green tomatoes, prepared as a surprise. I crunch into warm juice-filled ambrosia. They fill my mouth with the taste of green, of red, of fresh air. They are a little bitter at first bite, but sweetness comes through as tongue and palate work in harmony to wrest from each morsel every nuance of taste: corn meal, salt, pepper, un-ripened tomato, bacon fat. I close my eyes and eat more slowly - savoring.
 
Evening approaches. I have picked corn for the evening meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, leftover ham, biscuits and jam, and platters piled high with vine-ripened tomatoes. We sit in the metal rockers beneath the ancient oak tree and shuck the corn. I like these times of intimacy.   Mawmaw talks about food and its preparation. I listen with rapt attention. Soon dinner will be ready.
 
I pass on this legacy to my husband and son with "Mama Spaghetti" made with my own tomato sauce: slightly spicy and rich, hearty, neither sweet nor bitter; flavors of oregano, basil, garlic and wine, or a lighter sauce, which my son prefers during the week, with diced tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, onion and olive oil.
 
Today tomatoes remind me of summer, of sunshine, of creaking metal rockers rusting on a leaf dappled yard. The squeak, squeak, squeak of the chair as Mawmaw takes her only ease of the day...preparing vegetables and sipping iced tea. They remind me of hot summer days in the garden, surrounded by the smell of green, the promise of large platters of delectable fruit, joined hands around the kitchen table -- repletion -- redemption.
 
 

 

 
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Debra Shivel...
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Central Ohio

 

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