Monday was a red letter day at my office.
One of my coworkers arrived with a couple of grocery bags (the old brown paper kind, not that worthless onion-skinned plastic that someone has convinced you will “save the planet”). He announced that he was preparing lunch, and that we were all invited.
He made “BLT’s”–bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches.
I watched him eat about half a sandwich. He leaned back in his chair, a look of pure rapture on his face.
“This is the best day of the year,” he said. “The first real BLT of 2012. It’s better than Christmas day. Can you think of anything better?”
Actually, I could think of one or two things that are better. Or at least I remember a couple. But how could I argue with a man in the grip of sheer ecstasy?
I should explain. The tomatoes were vine-ripe, Alabama tomatoes. The first of the season.
From about October through the first of June, there are no real tomatoes in Alabama. Sure, we have something that is marketed and sold as a tomato, but it bears little resemblance to the real McCoy. These are grown in a greenhouse somewhere, or in far-off nether lands like California.
These psuedo-tomatoes will do in a tomato crisis, but it had better be a crisis.
These abominations are small, pulpy, and virtually tasteless. They are red like real tomatoes, but the color is just a bit off, somehow. If you saw a friend with that kind of complexion, you would be concerned. You would likely say “You look a little pale, are you OK?” or “maybe you need to lie down.”
Real, vine-ripe tomatoes are fire-engine red. In Alabama, they grow as big as a Wilson blue-dot softball. And juicy? You have to lean over your plate to take a bite or change your shirt after lunch.
The two cannot be compared. It would be like comparing Drew Brees to the pimply-faced ninth-grader who’s trying to make the high school team; like Monet to Joe the house painter; like ribeye to Spam.
I told a friend about my coworker’s bliss. Her eyes turned glassy. She said, “I had my first ‘mater sandwich last Saturday.”
It’s ‘mater season in the Heart of Dixie. Y’all come visit and we’ll fix you one.