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grismaters

(Column from The Macon Telegraph, June 19, 2013)

Friday is the first day of summer on the calendar.

But it officially arrived for me last week when I sliced into my first red, ripe tomato of the season.

I smothered it with salt and pepper, and slapped it on two pieces of white bread slathered with Duke’s mayonnaise.

I was a happy man.

Yes, I’m always a bit grumpy until that first homegrown tomato of the season arrives. I deplore the pithy imposters of winter that taste like Styrofoam. Or those spring wannabes, who disguise themselves in our salads, and may even look the part, but serve only to tease us.

They do not live up to our lofty standards.

“A good tomato,’’ actor Kelsey Grammer once said, “is like a prize.’’

I spoke at a church in Warner Robins last week. It was one of those “Keenagers” lunchtime gatherings, when everybody brings a casserole. There were bountiful plates of fried chicken, congealed salads and a group of self-appointed women guarding the dessert table.

Word began circulating about some delicious tomatoes. Everyone was wondering who brought them and where did they get them?

Tasting that first true tomato is like striking gold. Or finding a good fishing hole. We butter up our friends who have backyard vegetable gardens and pull over at every roadside stand and farmer’s market.

I did not get a tomato that day, but I did cut into a ripe one a few days later. I wiped the tomato seeds off my chin, and nobody could wipe the grin off my face.

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato,’’ writer Lewis Grizzard once said.

We normally buy honey wheat bread at our house. White bread has little or no nutritional value.

But I am putting myself on a WBD (white bread diet) for the remainder of the summer. The flavor of a tomato sandwich is enhanced when the flour is as white as the beaches at Destin.

There should be a law, or at the very least a requirement, that all “mater sammiches’’ have to be on white bread and washed down with sweet tea, the table wine of the South.

If I ever get caught jaywalking or texting while driving, and the judge sentences me to die in the electric chair, I might turn down a juicy steak and chocolate cake for a tomato sandwich for my last meal on death row. (OK, that’s probably a stretch.)

My grandfather used to roll out that first delicious homegrown tomato by Father’s Day. He always promised my Aunt Mary he would have one by then, and he usually delivered.

I get too impatient, though, like a little boy who can’t sleep waiting for the sound of Santa’s reindeer on the roof.
There is only a small window of time when a proper tomato sandwich will be on my daily menu, along with the rest of the bounty of summer — peaches, Vidalia onions and watermelons. And I won’t even try to debate whether a tomato is a fruit or vegetable.

I married a girl who loves tomato sandwiches almost as much as I do. I should have had “for Better Boys, for worse” inserted in our marriage vows.

County singer Guy Clark once wrote a song called “Homegrown Tomatoes.’’ The chorus went like this:

“There’s only two things that money can’t buy.

And that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.”

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