By Doc Lawrence
Deep South delicacies are closely tied to tradition and soil. Tomatoes stand almost alone as the most heralded miracle from our gardens. Thomas Jefferson is credited as America’s first pioneer of the tomato, bringing seeds over from England for Monticello’s revolutionary gardens.
Tomatoes vary in appearance and taste. Industrialized supermarket tomatoes are tasteless travesties that should be avoided at all times. My neighbors grow some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Some regions claim to have the best. Hanover tomatoes, according to Richmond, Virginia’s Richard Lewis, who has iron-clad Southern bona fides, said these, which are grown near him, may well be “the best flavored tomatoes,” anywhere.
Grainger Tomatoes from Tennessee and Alabama’s Slocomb's have a solid fan base. Supporters often compare their regional tomato treasures to the legendary Vidalia onion. Agriculture authorities agree that the superior tastes are closely tied to the soil. I have no particular favorite and enjoy each when I’m able to find them.
Local gardens in my part of the South without exception feature tomatoes and it’s a good bet these are genrously shared with neighbors. It’s our version of “how deep is your love?”
This time of year, the tomato sandwich, a genuine culinary miracle, assumes its dominance on the Southern table. Mayonnaise is a must ingredient and therein is another debate. Duke’s, Hellman’s and Blue Plate, according to my survey of readers, are top choices. People have a Mayonnaise brand loyalty comparable to devotees of Jack Daniel Tennessee Whiskey, Coca-Cola and sweet iced tea.
Tomatoes are the crown jewel of Southern gardens. An argument can be made that the sandwich, invented by British statesman Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), and a notorious profligate and gambler, must have envisioned a tomato and some mayonnaise destined to be included between two slices of bread.
DOC’S CLASSIC TOMATO SANDWICH
2 Slices of high-quality white bread, Not toasted
Sliced home grown, vine-ripe tomato Black Pepper & Sea Salt