Thursday, August 19, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: Tomato Mush

Janet here:
Every family has its own language, expressions that we create for events or moments that we forget are unique to us until we utter them out in the world and receive completely blank, if not shocked, stares. (Certain bodily functions immediately come to mind, for instance.) So, too, do families have prized personal recipes and food moments. And in the Reynolds clan, tomato mush is high up on the list.

Tomato mush is basically tomatoes with mayo, salt and pepper. You just cut up the tomato and then add the rest. Chill it before serving and you're good to go.

I was first served tomato mush at my in-law's home one summer early in my relationship with Peter. If I hadn't already been completely smitten by Peter, this concoction might have sealed the deal. Why? Because the only thing better than a luscious, ripe tomato seasoned simply with a little salt is a luscious, ripe tomato with salt and mayonnaise ... and maybe a little white bread to sop up the juicy goodness. (Indeed, when I can't make tomato mush, a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich on white bread is a happy substitute.) His family's love of tomato mush — in particular the adoration by Peter's dad, Dick, who loves this almost as much as he loves herrings in cream sauce and who grew up eating this — clearly meant Peter and I were meant to be.

As a young mother, I figured tomato mush would be a hit if for no other reason than the name itself. What kid isn't going to want to try something called mush? Interestingly, S, the adventurous eater, is the one child who doesn't like tomato mush. He is not a fan of tomatoes, something I truly don't get, although I will continue to love him nonetheless.

For me, tomato mush remains a special harbinger of summer's full goodness, that moment when tomatoes are perfection right off the vine. They don't need one minute of ripening but instead can be enjoyed immediately and fully. Tomatoes like that always come at the beginning of summer's wane. Certain trees here are already tinged with hints of fall's colors to come, and with it, the cool weather and a return to fewer ripe food options. It makes the tomato's taste all the more bittersweet.

Rachel here: I was going to chime in with my own thoughts on tomato mush, but I think my mom's summed it up pretty well. Plus, I had forgotten that it comes from my dad's family and I like that she liked them all a little bit more for introducing her to this sort of deconstructed tomato sandwich (I prefer it with pumpernickel bread on the side).

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