Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gardens of Eatin'

It won't be long before the tomatoes will be bursting with ripeness, and gardeners will be washing up canning jars for preserving salsa, homemade ketchup, and all kinds of tomato  medleys for chili.  Tomato time is truly the big gardening event of the summer, isn't it?

I can still see my mother standing by the stove stirring a kettle of bubbling tomatoes.  She used to make homemade ketchup for us.  Her recipe wasn't too sweet, not too vinegary, but just right.  After we took that first taste, we knew she once again nailed it right on.  She'd fry hamburgers in the iron skillet, slice thick slices of raw onion, and then we'd smear spoonsful of her ketchup on the fried burger, and it would drip down outside the bun onto our fingers and hands.  It was messy, but mom's main concern was our enjoyment, not fancy table manners.

Why is it that we never lose the memories of our mother's cooking?  My mother left behind many of her best recipes, and I've categorized them and put them all together in a folding file.  Before that, they were all in a rubber maid container, and if I wanted to find one, I had to dig through the whole stack.  She hand-wrote her recipes and her ingredients would list things like a "handful" of this and a "pinch" of that.  Well, that's good and well, but her hands were bigger than mine!

We love chili at our house, anytime of the year.  My mom's chili was thin with quite a bit of tomato juice, while our other mother made hers thicker with less tomato juice.  Back in 1967 when we joined forces, chili was a culinary clash for both of us, but over the years I passed on the golden spoon to my husband, and now if you're invited to our house for chili, it'll be on the thick side!  And, you'll also probably hear me bragging about it!

Aren't there about a gazillion varieties of homemade chili?  I like to put different toppings on mine, like fritos, raw green onions, black olives, sour cream, and cheese.  And, my chili has to be piping hot, temperature-wise.  For some crazy reason, I've always been able to eat extremely hot foods without burning the inside of my mouth.  When I order a bowl of chili in a restaurant, I always ask them to please nuke it for me so it's steaming!

Just imagine what it was like back in the days when women did their canning in 'summer kitchens.'  There are still some of those little backyard buildings around, but most of them are now used for storage sheds or have been torn down to make room for triple garages, four-wheelers, garden tractors, swing sets and other modern backyard paraphernalia.

Well, I think it's about time I go join the other two out on the patio and tackle the Sunday crossword.  Our friends gave us a loaf of zucchini bread last evening, and I think we'll each have a slice of that garden goody!