Edna Arlene Potter-Bain would spend the summer doing two things: Eating tomatoes, and canning tomatoes. Well, ok, she’d also go to Sundy School, get her hair done, shuck beans, cook breakfast, dinner, and supper every day, feed the dog, sweep the porch, swat the flies, and watch the Braves… but the most important thing for me was what she did as it pertained to tomatoes!
A vine ripe tomato is a luxury in the south akin to the finest caviar as far as I’m concerned and ain’t no man in a shiny three piece suit could tell me otherwise. I’m also convinced that if said man in a shiny three piece suit experienced what my granny did with tomatoes he would begrudgingly agree. Canning tomatoes is something one must possess an extreme amount of discipline in order to do. Not just because the process is difficult, but because it implies that you aren’t going to enjoy them there mouth watering ‘maters till further on down the road and knowing as I do what a small window we have for peak tomato season… well it’s something I have to count on the women in my life for because I do not possess said discipline.
When it was canning season Granny’s kitchen would steam up like a sweat lodge in one of them fancy New York Health Clubs you see in all the picture shows. You know the ones where the old wrinkly men would sit in their white towels making jokes like “it’s like a sauna in here” and talk about how their good-for-nothin- kids have been dipping into the trust fund to pay for some fancy new CD player? Well it was like that only instead of old wrinkly men in towels it was a old wrinkly woman wearing the same blouse she bought to get pictures made in at The Olan Mills 30 years ago but it still fits fine, thank you very much!
Not only was it steamed up in that kitchen but that steam coming off them tomatoes was acidic and would make your eyes water like you just cut in to an onion or read the last chapter of Where The Red Fern Grows. I always wanted to snag one of them tomatoes off the counter and take to it like an apple but Granny would lovingly slap my hand away and say “Nuh-uh there, little buddy… them there are soup tomatoes!”
Of all the things Granny did with the canned tomatoes (salsa*, juice, soup) by far my favorite was the vegetable soup she’d make as soon as the first leaf fell or that first fall chill hit the back of our necks. Some people call that football weather, but I know better…it’s soup season baby!
Okra, potatoes, beans, onions, and honestly probably a bunch of other stuff granny needed to get rid of that I didn’t know about got thrown into a big ole soup pot right there on the stove next to the jar of bacon grease and an unopened limited edition John Smoltz Coke bottle. And then the main event: Jar after jar of that heavenly nectar she’d put away for just such an occasion. The tomato juice that would never be here were I left in charge. Proof that there is a god and good things come to those who wait.
Granny died in 2016 and I still think of her every day. Most people tell you that no one can cook like their Granny and I was one of those people for a while but I must admit that I am lucky that she passed it down to someone who was worthy. Someone who studied her every move. The one person who loves me like my Granny did and the one person who took to Granny’s soup ladle like Thor to Mjölnir… my momma.
My momma makes the best cornbread on planet earth and that is not up for debate. My momma makes the best meatloaf on earth and that is not up for debate. My momma makes the best chicken casserole in the world and that is not up for debate. But above all that, none of her masterpieces are quite like what she can do with some broth and a roux. It is like watching Mozart or Beethoven compose. It is like watching Da Vinci paint. Dare I say it, it is like watching Dan Marino throw a football.
I am a very sensitive person by nature. I often let the weight of the world rest firmly on my shoulders and I often do not handle it well. I have gotten better in the past few years and am still working on it every day but it is a struggle. When life starts throwing haymakers at me and I need to find my happy place I dont crawl into a bottle like I used to. I don’t curl up in a dark room and shut the world away like I used to. Nope, I just make one phone call on my way home from a 10 day road trip.. “Momma, will you make Sunday dinner?”. Sometimes I say this through tears but even if I didn’t she would dart to the stove with intensity all the same I am sure of it. I am sure of it because she knows that when I’m eating it the world around me doesn’t matter because that is not the world i’m currently in. She knows that at that moment I’m sitting cross legged on an old shag carpet watching The Grand Ole Opry and Granny is tossing me a make shift ball that we made out of her panty hose because a real baseball would break the lamp. She knows that I can hear Bob Barker telling some lucky SOB to come on down and in that moment I am back in the arms of Edna Bain feeling a love that only a Grandmother can give.
She knows that Momma’s soup is a whole lot more than just Momma’s soup.
Thanks for reading:)
*Granny’s salsa was actually more of a sweet tomato relish but I still eat it with Tortilla chips and its my favorite thing ever. Ill share the recipe on here one day.
This makes me really want some homemade aoup.
My Grandmothers *salsa was a sweet and hot Chutney made with apples and tomatoes and some hot peppers.