Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Covered in Tomatoes

Can you hear the Tarantella music in the air?  It's Tomato High Holy Season.

Please forgive me for disappearing for a while.  I've been covered in tomato sauce as have many of my friends and other family members.  I've taken breaks from canning and preserving to help my kids back into their fall routines, a juggling challenge molto supremo.

Yes, it's party time for those of us who love tomatoes and all of the memories they bring.  And even though this time of year makes my pasta-loving heart sing, I struggle with the same questions every year.  Do I or do I not can tomatoes this year?  School is about to start, can I manage it all? Will I end up at the mall back-to-school-clothes-shopping with my kids when I finally notice sauce on my shoe, even though I've checked all garments and accessories before leaving home?  No matter. Tomatoes win out.  And they did again this year.  As a friend of my says:  you can buy tomato sauce at the store!  I know.  But when Mother Nature shows us how generous she is, I'm in awe of her majestic ways, and I bow down to her in thanks.  Then I spend weeks wiping down my kitchen in an exhausted, exhilarated state.  Was it worth it?  I come up with the same answer year after year.  "YES!"

It's not just the sauce.  It's the bonding that preserving tomatoes brings.  We swap stories with neighbors and friends and laugh about which distractions caused an unforeseen turn of events.  We hear about the time a batch burnt...we sympathize about the occasional cracked jar...and then there are those few son-of-a-badda-bing seals that don't take every year and so we have to start over.  I love this time of year.

When I was a little girl, my dad sold pasta and pasta-related products, including tomato sauce.  Since the company he worked for offered employees a special discounted rate, we didn't jar our own tomato sauce. That was the case for numerous years, until we moved out to the country and my Ciociari grandparents came with us.  Though my mom was pretty traditional, her parents taught us many more of the old country ways and I loved it.   My nonno grew a huge and wonderful vegetable garden and taught me many of the gardening tips I use today, though I no longer grow my own tomatoes.  But many of the old country traditions are still with me and I enjoy knowing that my oldest is already interested in learning how to make eggplant parm.  You need lots of jarred tomatoes for that and so this weekend will be dedicated to canning our final bushel.  After I've wiped down my kitchen and raked a few leaves (yes, they're already piling up in my backyard) I'll share more recipes with you.  In the meantime, if your kitchen is filled with all that canning tomatoes and other vegetables brings, I hope you're having fun. ~