tangled.

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{I’m so honored and humbled to share this piece with you. 
It was written by my sister-in-law, Leah.  (Who is a beautiful writer…)
And it was written during the time I had just moved into my new room, and everything was astray.
More importantly, it was written for me.
I am so thankful for her and her husband Bryan for loving me so well over the years, and keeping a steady eye and hand on me, as I wander, and have come to them hungry and broken, many times. 
Thank you, thank you, thank you.}

So now you’ve arrived in a new room where you’ll live alone.

It’s clean and not too shabby.
The quiet and solitude you’ve always kind of craved bounces off the plain white walls.
Loneliness can be so loud sometimes.

In your dreams you are back where you were, and she is there too,
with not quite enough space in the bed and her reading light on late into the night.
You toss in your sleep and your foot brushes warmth, skin too clammy in a muggy apartment bedroom.

You think when you wake you will make her an omelette, a little crispy on the edges the way she likes.
Maybe she’ll make the coffee beside you, with the full silence of people who are used to working side by side.

Afterwards you’ll do the dishes, burning off a few more nerve endings in the scalding foam of muddy water.
You’ve never had a dishwasher in this place, so you know your way around the sink by heart.
Scrape the pan, leaving little brown bits floating, then clink together plates of filmy yellow yolk.

When you really do wake up, in the new room, the realization hits you hard:
that in fact you can roll over many times or hog all the covers if you want and there is no one to make breakfast for.

It’s disorienting to feel the crisp new twin sized sheets that will never be worn down by the two of you,
the ones you picked out alone,
staring stone faced in an endless aisle of colors and thread count.

You knew from the start she was a little wild and unknowable but it’s what you loved about her.
The fragile light beaming bright in whatever direction she chose.
It felt good to have her shine it on you for awhile.
Your life together wasn’t perfect but it was steady.
(sometimes you wonder if the stillness is what left her undone)

But now you rouse and pull on your clothes.
In time your shirt will stop smelling like her and the edge of the pain will dull.
Already a family of bouncing boys is using your old bed frame.
With noise like that, they won’t even notice how it squeaks.

You pawned off all your things like that in the last days before check out:
the couch your grandma bought as a wedding gift, an odd assortment of lamps,
a cutting board where you chopped so many onions for your soup.
It wasn’t hard to let them go and you smiled to think of better days ahead for your possessions, the old bones of your life together.

When the place is finally empty,
you roll up your sleeves and start to scrub away the grime that built up over time.
You clean the slimy edge around the sink that usually went unnoticed,
the dusty slats of the blinds,
and the dirty corner of the bathroom, only visible from the toilet. Lastly you head to the front flower box to pull up the tomato plants.

Many come up easily, with a little tug.
Those are the ones she planted this spring thinking you would like to can them in September.
But one plant gives you some trouble, and it pleases you just a little to see it put up a fight.

The roots of this one have really taken hold, it came up voluntarily every year without any prompting.

Last year it grew so big it curled right up the front porch and sent shoots circling the spokes of her bike.
Covered in tomatoes, It looked like she had parked it there forever.

Eventually the plant comes up and you hall it to the bin for debris.
You clean up the big mess of fallen tomatoes except for a few roll aways that scatter under the bushes where you can’t reach.
Then all the while, as you turn in your keys, collect your deposit, and walk away, you imagine those tomatoes going to seed.

I wonder if you’ll drive by on your way home someday, next year, or maybe when you’re older and find that they’ve sprouted again into huge abundant bushes, so big that nobody bothers to pull them.

Tomatoes will dangle from every stem, shining, bulging, ready to burst.

You’ll smile when you notice from your car window, in a quiet knowing way.

And whoever is with you, a lover, a friend, a wife, will notice and ask you why.

Oh nothing you’ll say, as you keep on driving.

But inside you’ll smile, knowing that once they are tangled up together,

there are some things that just can’t easily be undone.

photo

t o m a t o e s

Food

I didn’t want anything to do with tomatoes growing up.

It seemed like everybody liked them except me — but why?

Was it the watery, tasteless reddish white disk saturating my hamburger bun?
Well, sort of.
I have issues with tomatoes on sandwiches. While I’ve grown to adore tomatoes, they do cause what I like to call “sandwich tectonic shift”. It’s when you go to bite down into your well crafted sandwich only to have the back half of the tomato come shooting out causing the whole sandwich to shift. (I know, the humanity!!)

And while I’m hatin’ on the tomato now, this post will be about honoring the lovely ripened reds, yellows, oranges and greens.

I remember my parents buying biscuits and tomato gravy at a gas station when they brought us to school. Seeing as how I hated tomatoes, I simply chose the white stuff with black specks and chunks of sausage. You still can’t go wrong with sausage gravy. I mean, you can, but it’s pretty hard.

Regardless, I felt the call to give it another shot.
I spent the past couple of days out in the country. My wife grew up (through most of her latter, formative years) in a town called Drain. Yes, like the drain in your shower, only with a bigger population. (Though not by much…)

Her grandparents still live there, on [the Beloved] Hardscrabble Road where I’ve had the chance to listen and soak in many stories and cups of coffee.
Their garden, unlike ours, had produced copious amounts of tomatoes.

I thought, “What the heck…let’s give it a shot!” Or at least I thought in my head..”Let’s make tomato gravy!”
It was time to move on from my fear of the tangy-sweet red stuff.

If I could swim in tomato gravy, I would. Okay, not really.

So, I googled a few recipes and consolidated them into something I thought seemed good.

Most of them said to use bacon grease, but unless you’re a nerd like me and save your bacon grease from time to time, butter would work just fine.

And it did.

Wowza, it was so, so good.

If you’re growing tomatoes, you’re probably in the middle of a crisis as to what to do with them all. Unless you’re canning or drying, it can be kind of difficult to eat them with everything. This is also when you find bags of tomatoes on your doorstep from neighbors and strangers as they try to lighten their tomato bearing burden.

Here’s the recipe:

If you’re cooking tomatoes, it’s always good to remove the seeds and skins. There’s a super easy way to do this, so don’t freak out.

Bring some water to the boil — enough to fit in however many tomatoes you need [and in this recipe you need about four medium sized tomatoes]. Have a bowl of cool water ready to shock them after they come out of the hot water.
Before dropping the tomatoes into the boiling water, take a small knife and cut out the top stem. This will make them easier to peel as well.

Once your tomatoes are dropped in, leave them alone for about 15 seconds, or until you start to see the sides peel back a little. Take them out with a slotted spoon and let them cool in the cold water to stop the cooking and to help release the skins. From there, it’s easy to take them off.

Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the watery juices and seeds.

Remember when I was talking about bacon fat? Well, that would be awesome. But you don’t have to use it. Butter works just fine. Warm up about 3-4 Tbsp of butter — once that is sizzling, add about 3 Tbsp of flour to start making a roux — uh huh! Remember all that talk about roux!?
Cook until the foam subsides and the roux starts to brown a bit. Add the chopped tomatoes and about 1 1/2 cups of water. Carefully season with salt and pepper (to taste). I added a pinch or two of dried thyme, which really made the gravy pop. Let it reduce a bit, stirring every couple of minutes until you get the right consistency. Taste and serve!

Ridiculously easy.
Amazingly tasty.
Drop it over some warm biscuits and you’ll be ‘laughin’, as Jamie Oliver says.

Oh tomatoes…

I’m so glad we’ve reconciled. We will be seeing you, old and new friend — most likely everywhere,

Josh