I grew up spoiled rotten…

...on home canned vegetables.

I did not taste a commercially canned green bean until I ate a school lunch in first grade. Blech! Limp, overcooked and flavorless.

My father was a big believer in home gardening. He was of a fading generation even when I was a kid. His family was poor when he was growing up. They raised rabbits and chickens in their backyard, along with a large kitchen garden. My dad had four brothers, and they were all expected to help sustain the family by working in the garden as well as deliver papers, etc.

So it was only natural to him that we would have a large garden in our back yard. Our house sat on an acre lot in Obetz. (Yup, I’m a Southside gal!) The garden took up almost a ¼ of that lot. No kidding. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage (we made out own kraut), radishes, carrots, green beans, strawberries, turnips, beets, horseradish, rhubarb and I don’t know all what else. Many grown from seeds he had saved himself (beans and tomatoes especially) All weeded and watered with care and with help from us kids. And that isn’t even considering the grapes, apples and pears. I don’t think any pictures of it survive. I mean, who would waste film on pictures of tomatoes right?

Lest you think my father unique, our neighbors, the Raineys, had a garden just as large and plentiful. Willie Rainey loved his garden as much as my dad loved his, and every year there was a contest to see who could get the first ripe tomato. My dad always planted his Early Girls closer to the house so he could watch them for signs of the first blush. One year, my dad (who had a roughish sense of humor) bought a ripe store tomato and perched it in the branches of one plant just to see Mr. Rainey get jealous.

The reason I am waxing so poetic over gardening: heirloom tomatoes. I refuse to buy the plastic red orbs that pass for tomatoes in the grocery stores, and have learned to adapt my menu accordingly. I have my three plants in the back of my apartment along with a habanera and a jalapeño plant. But it’s not enough. Ever. So off the farmer’s market I go, reusable cloth bags in hand (aren’t I so PC?).

And here is a picture of some of my tomatoes before I turned them into a salad with a little salt and some shredded basil from Debbie’s garden. And BLTs. And cheese omelet and tomato sandwiches. Yeah…I said omelet sandwiches. You got a problem with that?!

Tony’s Omelet Sandwiches

6 slices good dense sandwich bread, toasted (We use Pepperidge Farm because they remember. Well that and I work close to their outlet store. Our preference is for buttermilk or sourdough for these sandwiches)

1 really huge beefsteak tomato, dead ripe, sliced about an 1/8 of an inch thick

6 eggs, beaten

4 oz of sharp cheddar sliced thin

2 T of butter

Mayo, salt and pepper to taste

Ok folks, get out that nonstick skillet! Put it over medium high heat. When heated, melt your butter. Once the butter is all bubbly, pour in your beaten eggs and lay the slices of cheddar on top. As the eggs cook, the cheese will melt into them. Scootch the eggs around in the pan and tilt it so the uncooked egg gets to the heat. Remember, like with scrambled eggs, remove them from the heat before they are done!

(When is it done? That’s the mystery. They should be almost set. If you have brown streaks on the back when you turn the omelet out on the plate, it’s overdone. You can still eat it, it just won’t be the best it could be.)

Turn the omelet out on a plate and slice into three pieces. Place on the toasted bread, salt and pepper and add your big honkin’ slice of ripe tomato goodness. Tony and I like a little mayo on ours but our daughter prefers the sandwiches without.

A couple of notes from Tony:

A) If you would like, you can add mushrooms, onions or any other vegetation you might like. Just make sure you sweat them down to get rid of most of their excess moisture.

B) Do not add salt to the eggs when you cook them. Wait until afterwards. It’s bad for the eggs and makes them toughen up.

So there. Now you know what we are doing with the mutant that was unfortunate enough to land in our back yard. Pictures coming soon!

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