Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Saucy Season

My husband falls in love again with cooking every year in September, when the tomatoes are plentiful.

All that produce coming out the gardens must reignite some primal instinct he has to build up his and his family’s reserves, feeding our bodies with naturally delicious food now (and the guy can cook, even if he does say so himself) and stocking up our pantry for later. He joyously mixes the two enterprises, making supper while he’s turning out, say, 8 quarts of tomato sauce for the freezer. For days in late August and early September, and for briefer periods throughout the growing season, the counters overflow with vegetables in various stages of production, while the air fills with the most heavenly aromas you can imagine.

Happy as I am to see every last tomato (and a fair number of zucchinis, cucumbers, beans, beets and carrots) that we don’t eat freshly picked put up for later use, I usually feel a pang of worry that we won’t ever use it all. (Hubby, btw, always assures me that we don’t have nearly enough to get us to spring, let alone all the way to next year’s harvest.) Last year, thanks to a storm that knocked out the power and caused some freezer problems that we didn’t discover right away, we lost several bags of tomato sauce and some other vegetables. But I also worry that he burns so brightly during the harvest, that he won’t have the same energy and passion when the fresh produce stops coming, when the days grow short and his thoughts turn to other matters. When it comes time to use all those tomatoes, he’ll be busy getting the firewood undercover, feeding the stoves, not to mention hunting and skiing. Right now, he’s acting like Emiril Legasse or Bobby Flay, but by Valentine’s Day, his enthusiasm will have waned. He’ll still do a fair amount of cooking, and it’ll all be good. But the thrill will be gone. Will that freezer full of tomatoes be gone? Not unless he opens a restaurant, based on what I’ve seen in the last few weeks.

“You worry too much,” he says. True enough. “And I get a little better at this stuff with each passing year,” he says. “This year, I’m not just stewing and blanching and pickling, I’m filling the freezer with sauce. Tomato and garlic. Tomato, basil and garlic. Tomato sauce and meatballs. Tomato sauce with capers and olives. Every kind of sauce I can think of.”

No doubt. He is constantly refining his systems, perfecting his technique.
“And if you get worried, you could always take matters into your own hands,” he says. “You know, you’re a pretty good cook in your own right.”

Such a flatterer.

Every year in September my husband falls in love with cooking again. And I fall in a little bit more in love with him.