Friday, July 26, 2013

Rotten Tomatoes

It's starting. The tomatoes are coming in....into my kitchen, that is. With the cool spring, moderate weather and rain, I was thinking maybe I would be spared the agony of the tomato adventure this year. When I think about last summer, I remember that every flat surface in my kitchen was covered in tomatoes.  I stewed them, canned them, mixed them with okra and onion for soup, made homemade Rotel and frozen little Roma tomatoes whole. They were on my table for every meal, sliced on a plate.
Every time I saw that man—my husband—coming in the house with another bucket, I cringed. My back ached from standing on my little gel mat peeling, slicing, stewing tomatoes.  What makes all this work unbearable is that I don’t like tomatoes!

Every summer of my childhood, I watched as my mother, father, grandmother and great aunt made a big fuss about summer tomatoes.  They squealed with joy when the first tomatoes were brought home by my daddy, a farmer, and placed on the kitchen windowsill to ripen to the perfect shade of red—brighter than barn red but not crimson.
Mother had a special knife she used to peel tomatoes, the only way to serve them in our house.  No one was allowed to use the long serrated knife for any other purpose. Her tomatoes were to be peeled and cold.
Grandmother and Aunt Ruth would pile sliced tomatoes on a big white platter and place it on the table with a look of accomplishment like they had just presented a delicacy to an honored guest. 
 “Don’t you want to at least try to like a tomato?” my mother asked me every summer of my life until she died the year I turned 39. 
“No, thank you,” I would reply on my first refusal.
“Oh, come on and try one,” Aunt Ruth would say.  “You like ketchup. You should like tomatoes.  You like soup and spaghetti sauce, so you should like tomatoes.”
“But I don’t like raw ones,” I replied.  They were never convinced.
The next day at lunch they (my mother, grandmother and great aunt) would again place a big plate of sliced tomatoes, bacon and lettuce for BLTs on our 1960-style kitchen table. The ritual would begin all over again.
It was as if I were a family embarrassment. We would go out to eat or to someone’s home and they would pass the tomatoes, and as taught, I would politely say, “No thank you.” My mother would look up over her bifocals and say, “Nancy doesn’t eat tomatoes.” The hostess would give her a nodding sympathetic look. 
Since I was an only child living in a household with four adults, I was outnumbered. I never gave in.  I ate bacon sandwiches—just bacon and mustard.
How could anyone who loves being Southern as much as I do, not like tomatoes? 
I endured all this questioning at home and thought it would stop there.  What did I do but marry a tomato-loving man from a family of tomato lovers?  Same scenario plays out every time there is a family gathering.
It also happens with my friends. We go to a restaurant and I order the salad without tomatoes. One says, “You don’t like tomatoes?” with that squinty look of disbelief.  I might get a taco and say, “Please hold the tomatoes.”
“Hold the tomatoes?  It’s not a taco without diced tomatoes."
It sounds like a broken record that will not stop playing, like the movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray wakes up to the same day over and over. 
I must admit that I do like fried green tomatoes. That’s just because they are in the same fried family as a French fry, and you can put ketchup on them. Maybe that gets me back in the good graces of my family, friends and in-laws. If I lived in the Mid-West or the North and didn’t like tomatoes, would it be such a big deal?
So, I'll say it again. I don’t like tomatoes! Furthermore, I don’t like turnip greens or anything else that looks like dandelion leaves. And while we’re confessing Southern sin, I don’t enjoy or think I would have liked William Faulkner at all.  So there!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beautiful quilt barns dot Kentucky countryside

I just returned from a trip to Kentucky, just over the Tennessee line.  It was quite an adventure, but that is a story for another blog.  Being a new quilter, I am fascinated with the quilt barns in that area.

If you don't know what I'm talking about here is a description from

quilt barn is a barn or other farm building that displays a quilt square.  Often these barns are very old and have historical or landmark significance in the area.
Usually the quilt squares are hand-painted to resemble traditional quilt blocks (or patterns) that have been used by generations of quilters. Traditional quilt block patterns are very popular and are easily recognizable from a distance by their primarily geometric patterns. Many of the quilt square patterns chosen for display on the barns reflect an affinity the owner has for an aspect of rural living. Most of the quilt squares in the country are painted by hand on plywood, measuring 8-feet by 8-feet.  A few were painted directly onto the wall boards and some are made from other materials such as steel, aluminum and polymers. Most quilt barns in the U.S. are part of officially-recognized trails organized by individual communities. 

Now wouldn't that be a neat girl trip, to follow the quilt barn trails to view these wonderful old barns, proudly bearing huge hand-painted quilt blocks?  According to the Quilt Trail entry in, the first trail was organized in 2001 in Ohio. The tradition of the trails quickly spread to other states including Ohio to Iowa, Kentucky, Kansas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Oregon and across the border in Canada.

Why can't we have some quilt barns in Mississippi?  We have plenty of old barns. We have groups of artists who come from quilting families, and we have the new generation of quilters who would like to preserve the tradition.

Here's a picture from my recent trip.  More to come.....

Monday, July 15, 2013

A little Tab will do ya

Well, I've been so busy reading summer books, I've been a bad blogger.  In Claire Cook's new summer read, "Times Flies," this particular passage struck home with me. I'm dedicating this blog to three special friends—Sylvia, Rita and D'Layne.  Here it is:

"From Time Flies......"Boyohboy, am I thirsty," I said.  "You know what I could really go for, with all this talk about high school?"B.J. kept her eyes on the road. "A tattoo?"I waited a beat to let the suspense build.  "A Tab.""Tab!"  B.J. let out a loud scream, completely drowning out the Raomes, who were busy singing "I Wanna Be Sedated."I Smiled."Tab," B.J. whispered.  "I lived on Tab. I had my first one of the day for breakfast and brought one into my bedroom with me at night. All chemicals, no calories. And if you added a slice of lemon, it was practically a meal in itself. "I didn't say anything."B.J. launched into full rant. "Why the hell did everyone have to get so healthy?  I can understand not smoking and using condoms and eating dark chocolate and switching from white to red wine. But what in the name of all that's retro is so wrong with having a simple Tab every now and then?  I don't know about you, but I am so seltzered out."She turned to look at me.  "Do you think they still make it?  I haven't been in the soda aisle for years."  "I'm pretty sure," I said, even though I had absolutely no idea. It was the quest for Tab I was going for here, not the actual Tab...........Ten minutes later we were loading four cases of Tab into the trunk of the Mustang."Can you believe how expensive this stuff was?" B.J. said.  "Who knew it was a collector's item. I think we seriously lucked out to even find it. ......."And now we need to head straight to Veronica's house so we can get some on ice right away."B.J. ducked under my hand and freed two Tabs from their plastic collars."Surely you jest," she said as she handed one to me. "Warm Tab is the only way to go."

These gals were on their way to their high school reunion.  As for me, I didn't become a Tab drinker until I was in my twenties.  By then I had a child and one on the way. When I worked at the radio station at Northwest, my new friend D'Layne and I would take a break every day, between classes for her and between shifts for me, and drink a Tab and solve the problems of the day.  You really had to develop a taste for it.  That happened fast for us.  When I realized I was pregnant, I tried really hard not to drink Tab, but must admit that I did get in about one a day.  I think you turned out okay, don't you Hayley?

When the babies were little, it was really the drink of choice. It tasted so bad to them they would not beg for what I was drinking and drool baby drool and recycled crackers in my drink!  They say that I put Tab in their bottles, but that is not true.  I did give them a Coke or two when they were sick with an upset stomach—not a regular thing, you understand.

My friend Rita was and is still a dedicated Tab drinker.  We shared Tabs and talked while our babies ran around our feet.  The same no slobber strategy held true for her.

Now, Sylvia is still a Tab guzzler. She can load a church bus full of kids or senior active members, put a six pack of Tab by her feet, and drive for hours and hours.

In 1982 when Diet Coke was released, I switched alternately between my old friend Tab and DC.  I must admit now to being a dedicated Diet Coke drinker. But when I stumble on a convenience store with icy cold Tabs, I grab one and go back in time to 1979. My hair is long, Donna Summer is singing "Hot Stuff," Fleetwood Mac is crooning "Sara," life is before me with only one little boy at my feet, and I can't wait for a Tab to share with my friends. Thanks Claire for this little time capsule.