Something's Burning

Tomato “Salad” And An Existential Crisis

When life gives you tomatoes, make a tomato salad...or something like that.


Something's Burning is a food and adventure column catering to the inexperienced, the idle, and the hungry.

On April 17th, I planted five tiny seeds in a small clay pot: four like the corners of a square and one in the middle. They were each smaller than a sesame seed. Two never sprouted. The other three shot up like fireworks, marking the time through spring, ushering in summer. Today, they stand 5 feet tall on the patio, each in a large pot, with tomatoes popping out all over. Spider mites have begun bullying them, but they haven’t won yet.

And now it’s August. July felt like a year to me: three out of town visitors, two birthdays, and one nature getaway. It was like a perfect, ongoing bender of good company and warm weather joy. August feels a bit like a hangover in comparison. The visitors have gone back to where they visited from, and I’m returning to my typical routine at work. The heatwave is over. I feel summer threatening to end.

“The heatwave is over. I feel summer threatening to end.”

That’s the risk of having fun. An “afterwards” always lurks. A spider mite is never far away. During our quality time, one of my out of town visitors and I got in the habit of quipping “Uh-oh, I’m happy…” It was our running joke for her visit. We knew our togetherness was short lived, always dwindling, and bound to slip away. When she finally did depart, my mood plummeted. I had grown used to the rewarding and intimate daily human connection. I felt like curling into a ball.

Through the tired melancholy I have my tomatoes. As I collected the first batch in a bowl I wondered how to honor them. I usually enjoy sliced store-bought tomatoes and avocado over my almost nightly black beans and couscous, but I didn't want them to get lost in the routine. My little miracles. So I sliced each tiny one carefully, and dressed them in balsamic vinegar and Frankie’s 457 olive oil, with salt and pepper to taste. And I brought them in a tupperware to Prospect Park. And I ate the damn things, one by one, just like that. Lazily, a bit lonely, trying to memorize the way each green leaf hangs from each brilliant branch before everything changes (and it will, I promise, as soon as we accidentally stop paying attention to what day it is).

“Through the tired melancholy I have my tomatoes...My little miracles. ”

Can you call this a recipe? It might be closer to a guided meditation, or a form of surrender. I recommend you choose some great tomatoes (even from the grocery store or farmer’s market), dress them simply, and eat them slowly, preferably outside. Enjoy a very simple thing for exactly what it is. Be lazy. It’s still summertime for now.

Tomato “Salad”

Any type of tomato, sliced

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt & pepper to taste

Tried them out? Got a recipe?

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