Most people think “winter” when it comes to comfort foods. Everyone just feels all fuzzy inside at the thought of a big pot of simmering soup on the stove or the smell of freshly baked apple pie in the oven on a chilly winter afternoon. Those foods comfort us. They bring us back to the loving memories of Mom, Grandma and our favorite Aunt. She cooked. She baked. She hugged us. The simmering soup was overflowing with love. I like those foods and memories as well.
However, I must admit that I find great comfort in Summer’s bounty! I was washing some red chard this evening for dinner, and immediately I was transported back to New Jersey and those wonderful vegetable stands on every road and every corner in the summer months. Your car would automatically brake for vegetable stands! Summer’s bounty in New Jersey is a cherished memory engraved forever in my heart and on my palate. I remember my Mom getting all excited about fresh zucchini and huge bunches of basil. I see her standing at the sink, as I did this evening, with her hands washing the chard, transferring the beautiful leaves from one side of the sink to the other to rinse off all the sand.
I remember a dear friend of my grandmother’s, Grace. She had a plum tree in her backyard. We went to visit her when I was just 13 years old. She took me outside and picked plums fresh off the tree. She piled them in her apron like a carrying sack. Then in just 10 minutes flat, she made the most amazing plum coffee cake you have ever seen. The smell was heavenly. I can still see her standing there in her apron filled with fresh plums and a big smile on her face. She was a summer Kodak moment.
I bought this wonderful red chard from a produce market down the road from me called Clemons. It is a family run business. There is a real Mr. Clemons too. It is nothing fancy, but they have the freshest produce starting this time of year.
My chard happened to be from New Jersey, where else? The tag attached to it said, ‘Consalo Farms’. No wonder my mind took me on a trip back to my roots.
I love living in Florida. I love Ruskin tomatoes. Better than Ruskins, I love a tomato from Immokalee, Florida. I love Florida corn. It’s all good. Clemons is ten times better than the supermarket, and as close as I can get to Jersey fresh.
But I must admit I am faithful to the Jersey tomato. There is nothing on the planet like a Jersey Beefsteak tomato! I miss them so much. When the heat of summer makes your steering wheel so hot you can’t touch it here in the South, I find myself longing for Jersey’s Summer bounty and all the deep down comforting feelings that go along with it.
The entire memory just reels me in like the giant arms of Mother Earth embracing me. Winding country roads with gardens everywhere. A small stand offering you green beans, squash, cucumbers that were just picked that very morning. My Mom’s hands cleaning the garlic and washing the vegetables. The smile of farmer when he hands you your purchase. So comforting. Indeed, so comforting.
Yet, I find myself a little jealous right now, and I am not a jealous person. Some special someone gets to eat a Jersey tomato this Summer, and it won’t be me.