What pass for home-grown tomatoes are most often in the strictest sense of the word not; some are grown on farms, but while farms are certainly homes, the tomatoes likely come from a field. You’ll also find local hothouse tomatoes sold as home grown, but they’re just a cut above those you’re going to see in a produce section in December. Garden tomatoes, those tended in a patch of ground by someone who keeps a garden not for commerce but for care and consideration, however imperfect, are not only the best tomatoes you will ever eat, but they are also hard to come by. You must know someone who tends a garden well because they were taught how by someone who tended for them, and you must live where people share the bounty of their lives, and if your character is judged worthy, they will share with you.
You’re accustomed to raisins in oatmeal cookies, but in fact any dried fruit makes a good addition: dates, apricots, peaches, even plums. (Yes, I’m one of those people who actually likes prunes; lucky for me, eh?) Spices should be adjusted accordingly to the different fruits; I’d suggest ginger for apricots and peaches–also mace, if you happen to have a connection–cinnamon for raisins, dates and prunes, a little nutmeg for all.
Now a word about spices: During the holidays, buy the smallest amounts you might need, seal the containers in a zip-lock and freeze them for the rest of the year. They’ll be fine, and you’ll know where to find them if, say, you make a peach cobbler on the fly on the Fourth of July (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Let me go so far as to add that even though my housemate insists that we need one, the Age of Spice Racks ended sometime around the time Carter was elected, and having a set of gummy glass bottles trapped in a coca-cola case on your kitchen (or any other) wall has no appeal, culinary or otherwise.
Coarsely chop about eight ounces of pitted dates or another dried fleshy fruit, but don’t even try this with banana chips, trust me. Melt one stick unsalted butter, add ¾ cup brown sugar and stir until smooth. Sift in a cup all-purpose flour, a teaspoon baking soda and about a teaspoon salt. Add a lightly beaten egg, a teaspoon vanilla as well as whatever spices fit your groove, a cup and a half of quick-cooking oats and mix well. Spoon dough in golf balls onto lightly oiled baking sheets and place on the middle rack of a preheated 350 oven for about 20 minutes. This mixture–divine, sensuous, the very food of destiny itself–can be baked in a pan and sliced into bars after cooling.