A harvest moon always makes me romanticize about family, love, new beginnings, the world and hearty meals served up with robust local reds whose tannins have mellowed after serving their five years.
One of the rituals that we literally have to squeeze in between our Fall consumers shows is to “do our tomatoes”. We first source out the best plum tomatoes we can find (in the olden days before kids and too much work pressure we used to go pick our tomatoes). Then we set up a date with my friend Johnny P’s parents and their garage (yes they are Italian). We buy the tomatoes a day or so ahead of the big date and deliver them to the garage. We head back to the garage the night before to give the tomatoes a good washing, pick out the bad ones and then lay them out to dry.
When the alarm goes off the next day it’s time to dig out the old jeans, tattered t-shirt, varsity sweatshirt from 1995 and shoes that we don’t much care for anymore. Load up the car with our clean jars, lids and caps, propane tank and oversized burner. My friend's parents have all the rest of the equipment; including the expertise, wit and perfect space.
When we arrive they always beat us to the punch by starting to core and/or blanch the tomatoes. If we say will be there at 7am they’ll start at 6am. If we say we’ll be there at 10am they’ll start at 9am. It’s a friendly control thing I guess and always makes us feel a little like kids again. Once the action gets going and all the burners are fired up and the tomatoes skins start flying, the sugar, salt and basil get measured out, the sweatshirts start coming off, then the real fun begins.
Mrs P gets the espresso machine going, the Sambuca and Baileys gets cracked, the laughing starts and the playful gloves come off. It really turns into a sitcom at this point. You have this cute Italian couple and the three of us who combined are maybe one sixth Italian going at it. Our favourite part is when Mrs. P throws jabs at Mr. P and then starts on us, “you put that in the wrong place”, “that's not ready yet” or “how many times is it going to take until you know what to do next?” and then Mr P starts throwing his sardonic jabs back. “she a lucky I married her”. The making of a classic TV show that would resonate because it would be so relatable to so many on so many levels.
Once the jars are all full, capped and snug together upside down in the corner of the garage resting from their ordeal then it’s time for lunch. The homemade wine, pizza and bread make their entrance. One of our newer traditions is to use the bread to clean the big pot of any remaining splashes of the bright red liquid gold we created out of our four bushels of tomatoes. We than help clean up our mess say our goodbyes, kisses and hugs all around and make plans to return in the next few days to pick up the spoils of our labour.
One of us picks up the jars and brings them to the office. We than divide them amongst the three of us. That night after work we bring them home and happily store them in our favourite place in the basement that comes alive each fall.
The fruit cellar is in all it’s dampness, darkness, cobwebs and bad lighting, the bright spot for us on many occasions during the the long cold Canadian winters. Personally, whenever I go down and retrieve a jar of tomatoes I feel connected to my ancestors, family, friends and not to sound too corny but the human race in general. Growing and eating food is something that we have collectively been doing for thousands of years and it just gives me a real grounded feeling to do something so traditional, healthy and uncomplicated in today's fast-food, eat out every night, never slow down, mess of a western world we somehow created.
So here’s to another great fall season and we hope that you get to get out and enjoy all that a beautiful Canadian Fall offers and when you get home you to are able to head down to your fruit cellar and pull out a jar of your homemade sauce and nourish your family and senses.