Ode to Tomatoes, for the Last Days of Summer (Neruda with Recipes)

Every September, I become aware that the last moments of summer tomatoes are imminent, and that no matter how appealing winter tomatoes may look, they hold none of the lusciousness of summer. I pick out oddly-shaped “real” tomatoes at the farmer’s market to savor the perfect,  dead-simple way I learned from my friend Anthony Giglio. Eating them, I remember Neruda’s Ode to Tomatoes, marveling at how it echoes Anthony’s instruction…

The street
filled with tomatoes
midday,
summer,
light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.
In December,
unabated,
the tomato
invades
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
takes
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
sinks
into living flesh,
red
viscera,
a cool
sun,
profound,
inexhaustible,
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we
pour
oil,
essential
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
pepper
adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
parsley
hoists
its flag,
potatoes
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
knocks
at the door,
it’s time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

Sally Schneider

Unlike Neruda’s experience in the temperate southern hemisphere, on the east coast of the United States, perfect tomatoes don’t invade the kitchen in December unabated. So every September, I also slow-roast batch after batch to capture their summer flavor for the dark days of winter. (You’ll find the recipe, and many delicious things to do with them, here and here.)

 

Maria Robledo

 

3 Responses to Ode to Tomatoes, for the Last Days of Summer (Neruda with Recipes)

  1. Josette 09.14.2018 at 9:31am #

    Poetry to accompany the celebration of seasonal bounty, this is why my life is richer with your flimpses from your improvised life. Neruda enjoyed tomatoes in December because he was in the Southern hemisphere.

  2. Sally Schneider 09.14.2018 at 10:09am #

    Thank you, and for giving me a better descriptor than “temperate Chile”…I was too tired to remember that it the word for why he has tomatoes in winter is “southern hemisphere”.

  3. Sondra Newman 09.14.2018 at 10:40am #

    Neruda makes one forget such mundane matters.

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