Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's got to be the love....

Today I had a tomato sandwich for lunch -- and this is probably four weeks’ worth of my eating tomato sandwiches for lunch. I ate one today with bacon, and I have been eating them since the second week in July

Even though a purist would tell you -- “it’s gotta be white bread to be a real tomato sandwich,” I make mine these days on Honey Wheat bread.

The BLT is a classic sandwich. I think of it as Southern fare, but it could be more universal than that. I know that the plain tomato sandwich is pure Depression sandwich --- cause the rich folks had the lettuce and bacon to add to the sandwich -- poor folks didn’t.

BTW: I would check Wikipedia about the origin of the tomato sandwich, but I’ll leave that up to Jessica. Jessica is one of my former students, my faithful blog reader, and, of course, my biggest critic. What’s a writer without a critic -- I’ll answer that for you --- lousy!

*waves to Jessica*

Growing up in Atlanta in a family of six, we were strapped for money most of the time. My parents had determined that all four of their children would have the opportunity, as well as this being their expectation, to go to college, so we were never frivolous about money.

My parents put four children through college, and we were five years apart; at one time, they carried three of us at the same time.

I know that we did not go out to eat much when I was growing up. Maybe a Sunday twice a year at Morrison’s Cafeteria, but we ate all of our meals at home at the table together, and we packed lunches for work or school.

My parents were Depression survivors -- they knew how hard it was to make a dollar, so they would not throw it away on an overpriced bowl of coleslaw or filet of fish. Plus, my oldest brother was a picky, picky eater -- if we had gone out to eat, he would just order Saltines or a ham sandwich.

My memories of tomato sandwiches is tied to my mother and her ability to make a sandwich that made my mouth water. I used to beg her to make me a sandwich (even though I was fully capable) because she would slather the bread with mayonnaise taking it out to the edge of the bread like a skillful painter, lay thinly sliced tomatoes two layers thick, salt and pepper the tomatoes, and then cut the sandwich in a diagonal before handing it over to me.

I can see myself in our hot kitchen in the peak of the summer heat, window fans turning, sweaty short wearing legs sticking to the vinyl chairs, and being totally refreshed by one of my mother’s delightful sandwiches.

That was summertime lunch at my house growing up ---- one of my mother’s special touch sandwiches and a glass of milk.

My mother also used to make us onion or green pepper sandwiches or a combination of any of the above. These were made the same way as a tomato except with the coveted Vidalia onion, an onion that had to be gotten at the Forest Park vegetable market on Old Dixie Highway in Forest Park, Georgia. You could not buy the real thing at a conventional grocery store like A&P or Colonial.

The best Vidalia onions were those that the vacationers to Florida would pick up on their way back up Interstate 75 in the vegetable markets set up off the interstate exits. Home made signs would direct the travelers where to get the best ones. Friends would bring back 50 lb. bags full and share with their neighbors and their Sunday school classes.

That was before I-75 was sixteen lanes and fourteen slow downs of road construction. Egads…

My mother was a classic 1950 - 1960 mom as she would stand at the counter in our kitchen with the mayonnaise, the tomato slicing knife, the salt and pepper and the love. It was the love in that sandwich that I remember the most.

Now, every time I eat a tomato sandwich or share a tomato sandwich with my sister, we always think of our mother who made the best sandwiches I have ever tasted. The ones I make now are good, but they will never be that good. It’s got to be the love.

Not much taste better than good memories.



  1. A&P, Colonial, Morrisons! Good memories! How about Piggly Wiggly?

  2. *waves back*
    Huh, Gillham. Once you mentioned that I might look it up, of course I'm going to look it up...

    Anyways, tomatoes apparently originated in Central and South America. It was brought to Europe and spread mostly in Spain and Italy (think of the pizzas!). The English thought it was poisonous, since the leaf and stem of the tomato plant was poisonous. By the 1700s, however, tomatoes grew in popularity, being used in broths, soups, etc. In the Victorean Era (1837-1901), tomato or BLT sandwiches were popular as tea sandwiches. I guess purists prefer white bread because tea sandwiches are traditionally made with white bread.
    Huh, I see more BLT sandwich references than tomato, so that's all I can get so far.

    *salutes Gillham's mom's tomato sandwich making skills*

  3. I'm glad you like tomatos.
    They are my favorite fruit or vegetable.

  4. Your mom and my mom must have had the same recipe for sandwiches.

  5. Mmmm, my mother does the same thing for me with turkey sandwiches. At the proud age of 22 I'm reduced to pitiful begging when I go home. She says there's a method of smearing the mayonnaise and some delicious Danish mustard with the knife that I simply can't do. She claims she was trained by my late Mormor (Danish for grandmother). Whatever the secret is I'll be dropping my fictional fiance off for a few weeks to ensure I have delicious turkey sandwiches for life.