In search of…

imagethe perfect tomato. Every summer my father would have a garden and it was mostly tomatoes. He grew the most heavenly tomatoes ever. My sister and I would live on tomato sandwiches all summer long….perfectly sliced tomato, Hellman’s mayonnaise, a little salt on white bread (I don’t think it was Wonder Bread – that would have been too expensive!). The perfect summer lunch.

The first year we were married, my husband grew a garden at my parent’s house – we lived in an apartment so there was no place for us to plant. It was a massive garden! Eggplant, green peppers, zucchini, summer squash and TOMATOES…lots of tomatoes. The funny thing is, my husband doesn’t even like eggplant! But he thought it was pretty and it grew well, so we had lots of eggplant to give away.

That was 28 years ago (which makes me feel really old right now!) and quite frankly, we haven’t had a decent tomato sandwich since! We’ve grown all the favorites, Big Boy, Beefsteak, we even tried growing some of the yellow ones….they just don’t match up.

This spring, my daughter-in-law’s mother Joyce, who with her husband Roland have extensive vegetable gardens at their home in Maine told me she would grow heirloom tomatoes for me to help with my search for the perfect sandwich tomato. She grew Purple Cherokee, Brandywine and another variety. We got about 10 of them from her last Saturday, along with a loaf of homemade bread and some fresh grown basil. This was exciting! That night we sliced the bread, added the mayo, sliced up one of the juicy tomatoes and ate…now I don’t want to be an ingrate…it was so sweet of Joyce to plant, grow, coddle and protect from the chipmunks these red orbs of flavor, we truly appreciate it…

but they’re not it

after all the anticipation, that flavor isn’t there…don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, it’s just not what we remember. Maybe we’ve been waiting so long for the perfect tomato sandwich that we no longer really know what it tastes like? Could that flavor lurking in our memories be just that, a memory? I’d like to think it’s not, that I will one day discover that perfect tomato flavor for my sandwich….one of Joyce’s was close, of course I have no idea which variety it was! Looks like we’ll have to do some more research….until then,

the search continues…

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You’re right! Bill and I have been talking that either our taste buds have changed, or tomatoes, and most other things, just don’t taste as good as they used to. We go to the local farm to buy them, or to the farmers’ market, but they just don’t have that tomatoey taste. Has the taste memory exaggerated the real taste? Is it like going to show my grandson my Bestemor’s house and discovering that it is tiny, not the big house I remember?

I’ve bought heirloom tomatoes and they’re not any better. I hope it’s not age and that the problem won’t get worse as we get older.


I think you are on to something, Karen and Lisa – I would be interested to know more about the memory of taste and nostalgia – so that there is an emotional component that is attached to our memory of taste; and perhaps the reality of taste cannot match that memory – since my childhood in Ohio, I have looked for perfect frozen custard – adn have yet to find it….maybe it’s me.

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