This is a response to Willow's latest Magpie Tales visual creative writing prompt. Visit Magpie Tales and find all kinds of wonderful writers and poets and their takes on the prompt and giving hearty support to each others' creative efforts. Give it a try! A creative challenge is good for you!
I come from tomato country, in what many call Canada’s “banana belt” – Essex County. You never tasted a tomato as good as a warm, fresh picked field tomato. No tomato was redder, richer and full of flavour as those. Sadly, most of the tomatoes there are machine harvested now, and with the forced ripening for one-time harvesting, they have never tasted the same.
There was a tomato factory in Amherstburg when I was a kid, and every August the familiar tomato soup smell permeated the air as the farmers rolled in daily with their wagonloads of tomatoes, and the colourful and exotic migratory workers from Jamaica would appear in the streets. Sometimes the boys in my neighbourhood would run after the tractors and hitch a ride on the back of the wagon. That tomato soup smell always reminded us that back to school was coming.
When I grew up I married into a farm family and one of their crops was tomatoes. Workers would come in from Quebec each year to pick them. For a few years before my kids were born I would sit on the planting machine with the others and feed the seedlings into the grippers on the wheel. The steady clicking and turning of the machine had a meditative effect – and made the job rather pleasant, and I learned to love the bitter smell of the plants. Later in the season we would hoe weed patches – a much harder job but you sure didn’t have any problems sleeping at night!
When I think of those years I think of gorging on summer’s bounty. We would have fresh corn and toasted tomato sandwiches every night for supper. We canned pickles and tomato sauce and our freezers were stocked with bags of corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus. I remember long days, with barbeques and dogs and deeps suntans and the smell of dirt and grass on my stained, calloused hands.
These are the things I think about when I find field tomatoes on the market in August and I pick one up and take a deep whiff.