For weeks. tomatoes from our garden had been sitting in a large glass salad bowl, ripe and fulsome. As I used each one of them up, and my husband George stopped bringing more in, I put them in progressively smaller bowls. Finally, there weren't enough to fill a bowl - there were only three little (now ever-so-slightly mottled) tomatoes left. I didn't want to use them, for to eat them was to finally acknowledge that summer was behind us. Yes, the calendar said that summer finished a full month ago, but those tomatoes spoke louder than any silly old wall chart.
I was in denial, despite watching the plants in the garden yellow and shrivel up, with only the most stubborn tomatoes hanging onto the vine. George started talking about clearing the summer vege beds, making way for the autumn and winter produce. Then, last week, the weather got about ten degrees cooler in one foul hit. Summer was definitely over. But still those tomatoes sat, waiting on the bench while I dealt with my post-summer existential crisis.
A few days ago, I got a nice email from one Leonie Andrews. Leonie is the author of the blog Voted with our forks - where she celebrates gardening, foraging and cooking - but most of all, she honours the seasons. She told me she was reading my book Afternoons in Ithaka, and that she had tried the fig-sap ricotta recipe that I'd included within it, and she was inspired to blog about it. And thank goodness for small mercies, the recipe worked. But even more pleasing was that she went on to make my beloved 'tomato sandwich', using her own homegrown tomatoes, oregano and homemade bread and cheese. When I saw the photo of her sandwich, something shifted in me. It made me realise anew that this is what the seasons are all about. Each one has its distinctive features and joys. As if to seal the deal, later that evening, our son carted in two huge pumpkins to add to the collection already piled onto our butcher's bench. The universe had spoken - it was time to open my heart to Autumn and say goodbye to Summer.
I washed those three little soft summer tomatoes, cut them in half, and with a little flourish, added them to the fry pan to flavour the lamb skewers that I was making that night. Just like that. They turned in a delicious, sweet sauce that begged to be mopped up with crusty bread.
I felt very evolved after that -- perhaps there's a lesson here about enjoying each moment, and about embracing the transitory nature of our lives and the world that we live in.
Now, what to cook with those pumpkins?