If you’ve ever gone out to the garden, picked a beautiful, ripe tomato (of whatever variety) and bit into it right there on the spot atop God’s good earth with the cloying tang of that tomato plant in your nose and the warm waves of sunshine on your face, then you can truly say, “I know what a tomato is,” for you have achieved an existential union with tomato-in-the-world as opposed to that picture in a seed catalogue. (Or maybe that’s an essential union; I think I flunked existentialism at Ole Miss, though I’m not really sure I took the class in the first place, meaning I might have passed after all. Being as a concept proved as vexing as its actuality.)
Vegetables prepared for the table straight from the garden are a hallmark of great Southern meals; a luscious home-grown tomato, simply sliced and served on a plate with fragrant cantaloupe and dewy cucumber is a signature centerpiece for many summer meals. While you’re on the road this summer, look for produce stands with signs written on brown cardboard with a magic marker. Do yourself a favor by stopping by and getting to know the people. You’ll hear much you’ll want to remember.