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Through time and space

I just finished off an amazing plate of my Abuela's tomato salad.  It's a remarkably simple thing, like many great foods are, composed simply of thinly sliced ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced sweet onions and a light drizzle of good olive oil and red wine vinegar spread out over a large platter.  I like it salted with kosher or sea salt that doesn't quite all dissolve on the tomatoes.

I cut the first slice into a bite sized  piece and the second it touched my tongue, I was back at my grandmother's lunch table in the courtyard of her house in Spain. 

I could see the faces of my cousins sitting around me and the scratchiness of the orange and brown tablecloth she always put on the table against my knees.  I remember the angle of the sun and the way it looked shining through the grape leaves in the vineyard beyond the chicken coop.   We sat there every afternoon, on a hodge podge collection of mismatched chairs and stools, under the eaves of the out building where my Abuela had her summer kitchen. 

After the salad there was usually a fish dish or some meat that I didn't pay much attention to because I wasn't interested.  For three or four summers, this tomato salad was my lunch every day.  I'd also eat fresh fried potatoes and these tiny green peppers that were fried until they were almost black and then liberally salted.  The bread that was delivered to the house every other day was the best bread I've ever eaten-- crusty but moist on the inside with a strong wheaty taste, not the insipid white bread with soft crust that I can get here.  After all of the tomatoes were gone I'd tear off huge chunks of the break and sop up the vinaigrette and tomato juice, leaving my plate wiped clean.  

Some of my cousins spoke rusty English and my grandmother spoke none at all but we still managed to communicate with each other.  My uncle Fernando, the English teacher, would sometimes translate for me if he was around.  She knew I loved that tomato salad and  it always reminds me of those summers in Spain, where wild blackberries grown on thorny bushes along the roadside.

I wish I had taken more pictures of the little village the last time I was there, the stone farm buildings that had been there for hundreds of years; the orreyos, big elevated stone buildings used to dry corn; the Carregal, a low marshy area that's flooded when the tide comes in; the Dunas, the local beach surrounded by sand dunes. 

Now I'm longing to go back.  I haven't walked those roads since 1991 and it's time to think about going back.  All because of a tomato salad.

Comments

rubyprincess
Jul. 4th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
Such a sweet recollection.
You know, before my ex-h visited NJ he doubted the quality of our produce (hello? can you say Garden State???) and once he had a Jersey tomato salad, he wept. My mom used to overnight us Jersey tomatoes when we lived in Los Angeles.
purplejuli
Jul. 8th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
Jersey tomatoes = best in the world.

I think I may steal soil from NJ to put in a raised bed to grow tomatoes out here. :)