A Simple Meal

TomatoesIf more of us valued food and cheer and song
above hoarded gold,it would be a merrier world.

– J.R.R. Tolkien

When I was a kid we always had a garden growing. When it came time to pick tomatoes, my Dad would go out to the garden with a salt shaker in his back pocket. In the midst of the picking he would find one that looked especially good to him, sit down, split it open with his hands, bring out that salt shaker, sprinkle on the salt and chow down on the tomato with a gusto the likes of which Paul Prudhomme couldn’t muster. That night for dinner we would have a relish tray of fresh sliced tomatoes, green onions and summer squash sticks, served along side a big bowl of green beans and potatoes cooked together into a stew and served with freshly baked biscuits. For many people today, even this simple meal is a fantasy, so far removed from everyday life that reading about cooking this way causes eyes to roll.

Everyone is working, and finding balance between work and home has become more than a challenge. It has become the “something’s gotta give” understatement of the century. We know that home cooking and sharing food at the same time with friends and family members present, is good for our bodies, our soul and the environment. But when it comes to cooking for ourselves we might have to rethink the way we perceive the act of cooking. Perhaps we are making it too complicated. The loss of simplicity has turned the act of cooking into a strange and exotic place that is only accessible by way of the cable food channel. Perhaps, we have lost our taste for simple food. The fresh tomato with nothing but a sprinkle of salt is outdone by the 15 ingredient tomato sauce. Revive the taste buds and stop eating packaged, processed, pre-made food for one week. Just seven days, and shop for food at the Farmers Market. Tuesday and Saturday works well, breaking up the week so everything is as fresh as can be. Find the flavor of a fresh raw green pepper, one that hasn’t been roasted with an exotic salt flown in from the Himalayas and ten other ingredients that you can’t pronounce. You will be surprised at how good simple tastes.

Try this…Peel a clove of garlic, slice it in half, and rub the garlic around the inside of a bowl. Cut a green pepper in half, remove the seeds and then cut it into chunky pieces and toss it with fresh tomato wedges. Sprinkle on some table salt and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. The salt will bring out the juices of the pepper and tomato in such a way that you will not have to add any other “dressing”. Scoop onto a slice of crusty bread and there you have the best summer garden meal, ready in less than 15 minutes. Make it your own by adding fresh herbs, a pinch of black pepper or some sliced red onion and cool cucumber. You will find that you are supping up the last drops of the simple meal with the bread.