Later in the season, when the cucumbers, okra, and tomatoes have almost petered out, you can put up those special pickles for the holiday table, but peak summer vegetables make great quick pickles to have with your fresh vegetables. Do not–I repeat NOT–attempt this with vegetables you’ll find in a supermarket. The vegetables should be young and very firm. Slice or cube cucumbers, small okra, green tomatoes or squash. For every two cups of vegetables, add about a half cup of finely sliced white or yellow onion (red will bleed). Pack into a quart jar. In a bowl, mix a cup of water, about a third a cup of vinegar (apple cider, white, and rice wine are all good), 2 tablespoons sugar (optional), and 1 to 2 teaspoons salt and stir until dissolved. You can include a clove or so of slivered garlic, if you please. Let these sit for at least three hours before serving, overnight is better. They will keep in the refrigerator for a week, but they rarely last that long.
Here in the Mid-South, we make three sandwiches with raw vegetables. One is the cucumber sandwich, served on pretty little trays aside ewers of lemonade, iced tea or gin and tonic on tables topped with linen and silver, eaten by ladies smelling of lavender sachets and gentlemen of a certain persuasion in pastel seersuckers. Diametrically opposite of this delicate denizen of elegant afternoon gatherings is the sweet onion sandwich, gnawed upon with indecorous gusto as well as deservedly considerable discretion over a kitchen sink and washed down with Miller or PBR by the likes of hunters, ATV enthusiasts and women’s sports columnists.
Then we have the tomato sandwich. Egalitarian and comfortable in company, this summer staple of Dixie is found on every front porch and patio, at picnics and tailgatings, on the table for breakfast, lunch or even a late dinner. For me a tomato sandwich is the ultimate nosh on a sultry summer afternoon when you’re watching the “Real Housewives” reunion. The essential components are bread, sliced tomatoes and mayonnaise. The bread should be sliced loaf, a soft wheat or white; for the sake of authenticity, Wonder bread is often mentioned. The tomatoes should be the best your particular part of the world has to offer, firm and richly ripe, though not uniformly so, since you want a blush of green around the stem end to ensure the fruit has a tinge of acidity that is the signature of a homegrown tomato.
The mayonnaise should be slathered on the tomatoes as well as the bread, thus ensuring an even moisture to the arrangement. Season with plenty of salt and a bit more black pepper then you would ordinarily consider enough. Adding bacon elevates a tomato sandwich from a mere culinary concoction to sheer poetry, but lettuce in any form or fashion is superfluous and annoying.