Yesterday I ate a tomato, just a tomato, for lunch. It was a gorgeous Black Cherokee about the size of my fist, perfectly ripe and a deep, red-purple color. I cut it into thick slices, put it on a plate and added just a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of crunchy salt and a flicker of black pepper. I sat outside in the partial shade of my apartment's courtyard and ate it with a knife and fork as if it were a steak. It was indescribably good in a way that only a tomato eaten on a sunny summer's afternoon can be good. It was the food of now, and of here, and it was enormously satisfying.
Strictly speaking, my tomato lunch wasn't entirely local. The tomato and the olive oil were from my neck of the woods but the salt came from somewhere in Wales and the pepper from Vietnam probably. So I wasn't a locavore purist (and probably never will be) but still, the act of eating a homegrown tomato at the height of its season felt good in ways that went far beyond feeding my belly. There was something so natural, something oddly appropriate about my lunch that loosened my shoulders a little and ushered in a quiet contentment.
There are things worth striving for in life, things that require we position our shoulders up against the wheel of it and push with our whole body. We make our best, most wholehearted effort, offer up our blood, sweat, and tears. For many, this is the energy with which we engage our lives and our reasons for doing this are as tangled and individual as we are. Sometimes it's worth it and sometimes it's not, but still we push forward.
And then, every once and a while, there's just reaching down and picking a red tomato at the peak of its season, and eating it for lunch, an action so effortless it barely registers. And yet this simple activity offers a sense of satisfaction and belonging so powerful that fills the empty spaces that all our striving and struggling cannot begin to touch. Eating a tomato in August is both an ordinary, everyday act and a quiet celebration, elevated by its fleeting season and humbled by its common, earthy origins. It is also indescribably delicious. Go. Do it now. Before it's too late.
(Image: Dana Velden)