I come from a long line of passionate fearcasters. OH, went the thinking around the fire in our ancestral cave, THIS COULD BE BAD. My people discuss risks and downsides. You could catch something! You could lose something! You could yourself be caught or lost!
Fearcasting and its sister activities, catastrophizing and anticipatory grief, do lead to preparedness. I'll say that for them at least. If your people are these kind of people, then you travel with the prescription as well as the pills. You secure a paper copy of the records even though they are supposed to be transferred electronically. A double-envelope kind of existence is demanding, in lots of ways, but it pays off exactly often enough to perpetuate itself. Or rather, it bites you so hard when you operate outside of it--as in it’s the ONE TIME you don’t send the thing certified mail AND return receipt requested that they claim it was either mailed late or not received--that you double down going forward. You should not for one second confuse this mindset with being very organized. There's a Venn diagram somewhere that can show you how minimal the overlap and intersection of these things can be, and it looks a lot like a Monday morning selfie of yours truly. It's not a pretty picture.
The thing is, for all the arse-saving that can result from this approach to life, it’s rough going to be intensely risk-averse. A focus on avoiding trouble and learning from disaster is, at the end of the day, a day you have spent focused on trouble and disaster. I kind of suck at rebellion, but I try to push back on this one when I can. As my family can attest, I do so with uneven results.
A long time ago, I planted a hibiscus bush. This was many years ago, when I thought I would have a lovely flower garden. Every summer, this bush would produce dinner-plate sized blooms that defied reason for our climate and my gardening skills. Every fall, as instructed by Those Who Knew, I would cut it back to the ground.
This meant that every spring, as I cleaned up the beds, back when I did such a thing, I would poke the little stumps with my toe or a shovel. “Pretty sure I killed it this time,” I would mutter, to myself or whomever was basking in the rays of my sunshine nearby. My then-small eldest daughter caught me at it once.
“That’s sad,” she said. “I like that plant.”
“I say it every year,” I reassured her hopelessly, “and the thing usually does come up and then it makes those beautiful flowers. It just looks so dead around this time that every spring I really think that NOW I’ve actually killed it.”
We both stood for a moment in the area of the truths revealed by what I had just said. There were several of them, and it was pretty clear that we were processing them in sync.
“Well, maybe,” she said, gently and philosophically, but leaving no room to argue, “Maybe you could stop thinking that now.”
She and I have had this conversation many times since, about other things that I am endlessly, pointlessly pondering and which she has summarily archived. I suppose we sometimes swap roles. Sometimes she pans wide while I cut to the chase. I’m sure it’s happened even if I cannot think of a specific instance right at this moment. Possibly there was a time deciding on a pair of boots?
Anyway. One area of forward thought that is more positive in nature than calling the consulate in the city of your intended vacation is putting food by, tucking away some edible now to be appreciated later. Typically, I spend most of June, July and August fretting that I have not done much preserving, and then in late August I remember that I always think that I’ve let the season pass me by when in fact I never kick into gear until late August and then I’m gangbusters until the frost settles.
Strange spring weather and summer drought have meant that there really hasn’t been much to harvest and put up, so I have had more time to write about canning (since I haven’t had much of it to do). ICYMI, you can find out what I think about canning with friends being a lot more likely to save the world than most of what’s on the political menu here and here.
But it’s not like there has been nothing at all for my present self to gift-wrap for my future self, which is kind of how I think of canning and freezing and drying things. This week’s Gift To A Future Incarnation was a real winner, so I’m going to give it to you now as well, and maybe those versions of you to come will then have one more reason to thank this current manifestation.
The last batch of tomatoes to redden up before the season ends are not beautiful tomatoes by most standards, but they are so superior to anything that will be available in winter that it’s worth it to use every one. This method of roasting and saucing is so effective at punching up deliciousness, in fact, that I think it might even work on a trucked-in tomato secured in a grocery store in winter. That remains to be seen. In the meantime, if there are dreggy tomatoes to be had in your area, snap them up,
Things you can do with this punchy, delicious roasted sauce (which came to me in an attempt to remember how to do this without actually looking up the instructions, another signature move of mine) include, but are not limited to, tossing it with pasta, fresh mozzarella and something constrasting like capers or olives; using it as pizza sauce with similar partners in crime, or (helloooo, future self) whisking it with some broth and a little cream or (thank you, Mollie Katzen) a dollop of mayonnaise and making tomato soup for the thermos. I’m normally more partial to a water-bath canned tomato product than a frozen one, but this magical stuff is being frozen in a silicone muffin pan as we speak here, and I just know that the convenient cup-sized knobs will fairly leap out of the freezer on those upcoming dark mornings--can you feel it, too?--singing summer songs and cheering us endlessly. How’s that for positive outlook?
In related news, if a grilled cheese sandwich is your preferred side-car to tomato soup ("if you are a human,"), go here right now and, like me, you will OWN the grilled cheese sandwich. You can skip the onion step on the interior if you like; in my opinion it's the game-changing outer treatment that really makes your reputation.
roasted tomato possibility
makes about two quarts; easily multiplied
- about 3# of tomatoes: paste, cherry, table or a mixture
- 2 medium onions, peeled and halved and coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- about 2T olive oil
- about 1T maple syrup
- about 2t balsamic vinegar
- about ½ t smoked paprika
- about ½ t dried oregano
- a generous sprinkle of coarse salt
- a generous grind of fresh pepper
Heat the oven to 450°. Line a couple rimmed baking sheets or other baking dishes with parchment paper unless you really love scrubbing black lava out of the corners of pans.
Arrange the onions and garlic in the bottom of the pans (it’s perfectly fine not to distribute them evenly as the contents of all dishes will get blended together at the end). Cut the tomatoes in half or large chunks, depending on their size, and divide among the pans. Drizzle each pan with a little of the olive oil, maple syrup and vinegar. Sprinkle the dry seasonings over the top of everything. Roast in the very hot oven until the tomatoes begin to blister and darken, about twenty minutes, then lower the heat to 350° and continue baking until the watery tomato juices have begun to thicken, the tomatoes are slumped and the onions are tender, about another 15 minutes.
Working in batches, puree the contents of the pans in a blender or food processor, and then run through a food mill.
Use immediately, refrigerate up to a week, or freeze for deferred gratification.