Missing the Tomato Feast…

September is always a special month for me as my mind re-invigorates the memory of the arrival of my first-born; not a straightforward story but one which might be used to illustrate the importance of the trusting relationship between patient and doctor which is pivotal to long-term good health.

That sentence immediately leads into a discussion of the nature of the  ”patient” role and how pregnancy is not an illness, something I have spoken about at various times when childbirth and coping with motherhood were the main topic. It is something to write about here in the future.

So to explain the tomatoes of my title….

It always seemed that September brought a glut of fresh tomatoes as the long summer drew to a close and home-grown fruit ripened alongside the greengrocer’s varied offering.  As I student I had a productive vegetable patch in the back garden of the “garden flat” I rented; the hours spent tending the plot were balanced by hours researching and creating dishes from the freshly-picked vegetables.  Tomatoes did well in that city garden and thus my September breakfasts often consisted of toast covered with a glistening heap of gently- fried tomatoes.  I can recall the delicious delight of these specimens as their intense flavour created a chemical reaction of deep satisfaction.  Thus it is with such disappointment that I tackle the tomatoes on my plate now; they present themselves as perfect balls of tomato redness, but lack any flavour or hint that they are related to the garden-grown variety.  Checking the packaging they are being brought in from Holland; thus I wonder where and why the home-grown disappeared ?   The fancier types are also all imported from Holland, yet despite their green stalks and “vine” they offer very little in additional flavour; the only increase being one of cost to the consumer.

However, some simple additions can perform a small miracle on these bland balls; olive oil, dried oregano, plus salt and pepper will transform tasteless “juggling balls” into a dish worth enjoying on toast or with good bread; a chunk of goat’s cheese will take your “imported Daily Dutch*” to another level.

In the days of the student garden it was a quick process to chop an apronful of the annual glut of home-grown “love apples”,  placing them into a saucepan where a spoonful of oil was warming, adding the flavourings and gently frying to stewing point as the ripe tomatoes released their juice.  The salt, pepper and herbs could be enhanced with a half teaspoon of sugar to knock back any acidic over-tones….Thus the glut became a feast.

The alternative method is to bake them whilst the oven is on for some other dish; the tomatoes need to be cut into halves and placed into an oven-proof ceramic dish with olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, sea salt and oregano.  A layer of foil is required over the tomatoes but not placed too tightly and then they can go into the oven under the main dish.  Long, slow baking results in a soft but very moreish herby tomato which goes well with fish and serves as a wonderful topping for fresh bread…the baked oil will also be packed with flavour so ensure you have some bread to dip in.

I do miss the tomato glut with its potential for this gloriously simple feast; over the years here I have managed to grow a good handful of tomatoes but the garden is not ideal and the tomatoes outside were all hit with something nasty…I suspect those bland Dutch imports have been modified to be resistant to disease whilst producing in quantities suited to their industrial production method…they certainly exude no character except sterility!

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