By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
We got the first batch of them last weekend, and they were – perfection. Red, round and luscious. Lined up in a shallow, plastic crate, they’d been placed on a sheet of old newspaper, and my mouth watered at the sight of them.
“Oh! Where did you get them?” I asked my parents, who’d just arrived for a weekend visit.
They told me the answer, but honestly I wasn’t listening. My mind was racing ahead to the other supplies we’d need: mayonnaise, bread and bacon. After a long fall, winter and spring, my salty beloved has finally returned to me – the bacon and tomato sandwich.
For all you purists out there, I do realize I’ve left the “L” out of the traditional BLT sandwich, but I don’t care. I like lettuce as much as the next person, but it gets in the way of the magical marriage between bacon and tomato, if you ask me.
Technically speaking, I could have a bacon and tomato sandwich almost any time of year. They do sell all the ingredients year-round. But those pinkish imposters at the grocery store can’t hold a candle to the honest-to-goodness garden tomato. They are a mere shadow of the real thing. Those robust, red garden tomatoes burst onto the scene around the first of July, like fireworks on the Fourth and they’re just as exciting.
My mother fried the bacon extra crispy while I prepared the bread slices by slathering them with mayonnaise. Mom and Dad like them with Miracle Whip, but Tom and I like ours with plain old mayo. We each arrange our tomato slices and bacon on the bread because sandwich construction is a personal thing. I place the elements with great care so that each bite will have its share of bacon and tomato. Then I grab the salt shaker and generously sprinkle those round slabs of tomato. I top it off with that second layer of mayo-smeared bread, and I’m ready.
With paper plate in hand, I rush my first sandwich of the summer over to the kitchen table and settle in. A tall glass of my mother’s syrupy sweet tea sits at the ready on my right. Napkin in lap? Check. This juicy sucker is going to drip all over the place, and I’m ready for it.
Open. Bite. Crunch. Sigh…
I am lost in the reverie of this most perfect of all sandwiches. In the moment, I don’t care about the calories, the salt, the mayo. I don’t even care about the artery-hardening evils of bacon. I love bacon! As the bite falls apart in my mouth, I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t worth dying for anyway.
All you bacon-hating health nuts can save yourself the trouble of writing me a nasty letter. Starting July 1st and running throughout tomato season, I cannot be reasoned with, no matter how many valid points you make. I’m a bacon and tomato junkie waiting for her next fix. If loving bacon and tomato sandwiches is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
The last few bites of my first sandwich of the summer begin to disintegrate in my hands, as the mayo and the juice from the tomatoes soak through the soft bread. That’s okay because I’m not above licking the remnants off my fingers. We’re all family here, and I know I’m among fellow bacon and tomato junkies. I feel no shame… only satisfaction.
I wash down that last bite with a huge gulp of sweet tea, and my eyes roll back in my head a little as I lean back and relive that perfect last bite.
“There’s enough bacon left for a second sandwich,” my mother says. “Want another one?”
My eyes widen and I’m fully alert again, reaching for the loaf of bread.
The summer is too short, people. Pass the tomatoes.