Vegetables. I wasn't a fan. Under duress and my parents' watchful eyes, I would take a bite of green beans and shiver as it went down. And squash? I thought it just might be the death of me.
I've since learned that scores of other adults are walking around relatively unscathed from vegetable encounters in their youth. Maybe you're one of them, too?
Back then, only two vegetable dishes made my tastebuds happy: mashed potatoes and tomato sandwiches. But we had a steady stream of fresh, colorful vegetables on our table throughout the summer: my grandmother had a garden the size of a softball field without a back fence, or so it seemed to me.
My mother, sister, and uncle would help her hoe, de-weed, or whatever while I stayed inside with Papa. I wasn't old enough to help, Papa was too old, and Dad was at work.
I confess I didn't mind staying in the cool, air-conditioned house with a bona fide excuse to watch game shows on TV. I'm pretty sure I felt a little sorry for my sister, but of course I didn't tell her that.
So Mom, Bama (my grandmother), Uncle Benny, and Donna would work and toil, toil and work in the hot summer sun. Around noon, they'd come in hot, sweaty, and tired with baskets of vegetables still warm from the sun. Including big, red tomatoes.
Within a few minutes, Mom and Bama would cut into those tomatoes and make sandwiches for all of us who wanted them. Which was all of us.
After lunch, Mom, Donna, and I would head home with a trunkful of the day's pickings.
Now, it may not surprise you, but I never took to gardening. However, to the chagrin of my childhood self, I did become a semi-vegetarian and began to long for the yummy goodness of food fresh from the garden. But in the suburbs where we lived, home-grown tomatoes were hard to find.
One summer day when my daughter was little, I took her to a small, organic farmer's market in our city. There, we saw tomatoes of every size and color and shade: red, pink, orange, yellow, green. Little "chocolate" cherry tomatoes. Yellow ones, too, shaped like tiny squashes. Small green ones for frying. And big, beautiful, misshapen heirlooms the size of my hand.
The farmer spent several minutes explaining the characteristics of each color and type of tomato. Honestly, I had no idea there was such variety! I bought two heirlooms, a green one, a container of assorted colors of cherry tomatoes, and, because I couldn't resist, a bouquet of pink and purple wildflowers.
At dinnertime, when I sliced into one of the heirlooms, the earthy scent was released into the air, and the juice ran onto my fingers. I was taken back to those summers of my childhood when I watched with anticipation as my mother cut a tomato--getting juice on her fingers and shiny gold wedding band before sliding the slices onto the plain white plate.
What foods do you associate with summer? Did you have special summer dishes or treats when you were growing up? Did your family have a garden? I'd love to know. Comment below.
Photo courtesy of GraphicStock.