I’ve been toying with writing exercises lately, and one of them instructs you to “write a recipe” and explore the sense of taste. I love writing about food, so here is what I came up with…
Growing up, my father grew tomatoes in our backyard. Green fingers gripped each metal curve of the space-age looking wire rings as each fruit gained weight over the course of the summer. When they were full and fat enough that the flies were beginning to circle, hoping to beat the humans to the punch, we’d pick them.
“If they don’t taste like candy, you didn’t grow them right,” he told me.
My dad taught me how to slice a tomato the proper way: a geometric knife pattern across the belly. When you were finished, a hundred uniform cubes released across the cutting board. He’d scoop them into a glass bowl, the juices and seeds leaving a pool behind, and work the pepper and salt grinder over top.
“You want a little garlic, and I mean a little. Raw garlic is the Julius Caesar of your kitchen, a dictator of flavor. Too much, and the empire comes crumbling down.”
We would slice artisanal bread purchased at the farmers’ market, so textured and crusty you couldn’t not make a mess and place each portion in a hot iron skillet with olive oil. The trick was to flip the bread before the pan started smoking. When clouds filled your kitchen, you were already too late.
“Add basil, if you have it fresh. Don’t bother with that dried crap.”
My dad would spoon the tomatoes, which had been sitting in the seasonings for just long enough, on top of each slice. With the tomatoes seeping into the bread, still warm from the skillet, you pick it up with both hands and stretch your mouth wide enough to envelop the width of the bread. And then you sink into the kitchen floor.