Tomatoes RatatouilleToday’s Word: ‘tomatoes’ as in… this is going to make your mouth water.

I’m a foodie—my kitchen is a chapel and everything in it is spiritual. My mom was my inspiration. Joyce was the one who turned our kitchen into a playground where I learned to love crazy stuff like tomato aspic, vichyssoise, and oyster stew. She taught me how to steam artichokes in an old-school pressure cooker, and how to correctly pronounce cardamom. Her recipe for pasta sauce is epic—hot Italian sausage, onions, a lot of tomatoes, fennel seeds, and an entire bulb of garlic.

Recently, on a long drive north, I was listening to an episode of The Splendid Table. Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s guest was Francis Lam and they were talking about “Weapons Grade Ratatouille.” In the interview Lam described the long process of preparing this dish with an entire bulb of garlic, shallots, onions, peppers and a lot of olive oil. And then, of course, the magic: pounds of tomatoes, summer squash, eggplant, zucchini, thyme and basil. It was awesome.

Sure, it was just a radio broadcast, but the car seemed filled with the aroma of garlic, the perfume of peppers, and of course, the bouquet of tomatoes. But the moment that nearly took my breath away was when Lam, describing the tomato jam which becomes the base for the ratatouille, said, in a measured, warm, slow, relaxed, yet expectant voice:

“The flavor is so deep your voice drops an octave… Oh, yes, hello… welcome to the end of summer!”

It’s only the beginning of summer, but I can already taste it!

Lynne then told the story of about the guy who had delivered nearly two dozen different strains of tomatoes asking her to choose her favorite. Botanist Joseph Tychonievich had bred a tomato that he wanted to name in Lynne’s honor and he needed her help in choosing the right. The rest of the radio program was devoted to Lynne tasting all 23 varieties! So, there I was, driving, and listening to Lynne tasting tomato after tomato after tomato and describing the shape, the texture, the aroma, the taste.

And for just a very brief moment there, I was sure my voice had dropped an octave.


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