So I made gazpacho — very good — but the big tomatoes kept coming. Spaghetti sauce, I thought. Almost two weeks ago I laid in the ingredients I didn’t already have on hand: mushrooms, a long coil of hot Italian sausage, a can of tomato purée. I entered “spaghetti sauce” on the week’s to-do list, which I keep in a spiral-bound day book.
I accomplished many things that week, but spaghetti sauce was not one of them. Spaghetti sauce takes time, I told myself. I am too busy. Tomatoes kept coming from the garden, but the old ones were developing black spots on top and squishy patches on the sides. I didn’t dare think what was happening to the mushrooms. I wrote “spaghetti sauce” at the top of the new week’s to-do list.
Twice I cut a lengthy section off the sausage and cooked it up for supper. If I ate all the sausage, I couldn’t make spaghetti sauce and it would then be OK to chuck the tomatoes and the mushrooms into the compost.
The tomatoes kept staring at me. They stared at me while I stood at the counter making tea or buttering toast or stirring my oatmeal. They stared at me while I sat across the room, typing away at my laptop. They knew when I wasn’t working. They knew when I was playing Spider solitaire. You don’t ever want a boss as psychic as those tomatoes.
Having been brought up Low Church Episcopalian and jumped ship by the time I was 13, I often claim to be immune to guilt. This is not true. Those tomatoes were making me feel guilty. You are letting us rot, they said. It wasn’t about children starving in Africa, Asia, or any other place. It was about waste, it was about neglect. Finally it dawned on me: I was afraid of my own tomatoes.
I was also afraid that the mushrooms had turned to black icky in the fridge. Black icky isn’t as bad as the gelatinous goo that long-neglected celery turns into, but it’s not pleasant either.
Last night I got brave. I rose from my computer and started pulling pots out of the cupboard: the big stock pot for the sauce, a smaller saucepan in which to boil water and peel the tomatoes. Once I got that far, the rest was easy. Time-consuming but easy. The mushrooms were way past their prime but still usable. The squishy places and black spots on the tomatoes could be cut away. I brought in basil and Greek oregano from the garden. A couple hours later I had some tasty sausage-mushroom spaghetti sauce and the apartment smelled great.
There are four big tomatoes on the counter. All were picked within the last three days. They are not staring at me.