It was all going so well, wasn’t it? June was an absolute delight — nary a day when the temps rose above 90º, with soothing rains that brought cool breezes. Humidity was low, mosquitos were non-existent. It was like the summer of my dreams, one that provoked a declaration to friends that I think I’ve been converted into a lover-of-summer, and then their response of a disbelieving raised eyebrow, since they know me so well.
And then, just like that, overnight even, I was transported back to the summer of my youth. The one that sits thick outside the back door my kids never remember to shut (welcoming the fly that is currently, this very moment, buzzing around my head). The summer that sucks your breath like one of those Death-Eaters in Harry Potter. The drought-infused heat that stunts growth and ripening in our garden, causing all the green tomatoes on our vines to just sit, stubbornly, refusing to blush. And I can’t say I blame them — I’m finding new ways to reserve unnecessary energy too.
I want summer recipes, but haven’t wanted to buy tomatoes — I mean, that’s why we planted so many, right? Though after walking by a community garden this morning, and holding onto the chain-link fence as I stared longingly at some juicy red specimens (guess they got theirs in the ground before we did?), I might break down, swallow my self-sufficient pride, and bring some home from the farmer’s market this Saturday.
We were at dinner the other night at Room Four (which, by the way, was most excellent — and I would write a stellar review except that now I’m afraid I’ll curse the place, having written a recent stellar review of another new restaurant in town only to hear of a friend having a lousy experience there the next week). Chef Greg Hardesty was able to chat a bit, as the other half of the restaurant, Recess, was closed for the night. I was asking him about my failed attempts to recreate the amazing chicken liver mousse we had at Recess last winter, and he went to fetch the cookbook that lent inspiration for the dish. As I read the recipe, he offered to just let me take the book home for a few days, adding as an afterthought that he “wouldn’t buy any more produce from my husband’s farm” (i.e., the Butler Campus Farm) until we brought it back.
The cookbook is big, and stunning, and way over my head (obscure ingredients, required mandolines and the like). But I sat last night, salivating over each and every tomato recipe. A yellow tomato tart, tomato trifle, tomato tartare, fresh tomato soup. All of the photos showcasing the brightest red of red specimens, and it’s all I can do not to start scraping at the page with my nails, my brain tricked by the mirage.
I find myself constantly craving acid. Not the hallucinogenic kind, but anything edible and tart, in that sharp, pungent way. I eat pickled things, but in the end they aren’t quite sweet enough. Aren’t fresh enough. Aren’t tomato enough.
Come on, summer, don’t be stingy. Give us tomatoes, they are currently your one saving grace.