I made fried green tomatoes for dinner.
If you got to that first sentence and rolled your eyes, because seriously, who cares what I ate for dinner? I’d completely understand. It’s not really about the tomatoes, though.
This week the forces of chaos have been trying to overtake me. Just the small-to-medium forces of chaos, nothing insurmountable. I opened my brand new dishwasher, the one I saved up for while I hand-washed dishes for six months, and suddenly there were spare pieces rattling around in the bottom. A black plastic thing, and a springy thing, and there’s no obvious place where they came from. Not surprisingly, my brand new dishwasher is no longer washing dishes. My brakes suddenly began making a cataclysmic noise, to the tune of $367, but what’s a girl to do? You need brakes. My house, after a rainy spring, has green things growing on the north side. I do not want green things growing on the north side. I made up my mind to solve this problem, this week. I planned to call A Guy. But then the brake thing happened. Green things will have to wait.
The chaos I love right now, though, is my garden. I made an expedition down the street today to add more stakes, for the fourth time. Another tomato cage turned over, and the first set of stakes I used all either toppled or actually snapped under the weight of all the green tomatoes coming in. My neighbor has accused me of illegal doping in the vegetable jungle. It’s that crazy. I have tomato plants taller than I am. I have never seen the like.
I’ve planted gardens before, with very mild success. I’d get a few tomatoes, or pole beans, or the odd squash before the squash borers invaded and ate the plants. Overabundance has never been an issue. This weekend I picked four giant, baseball bat sized cucumbers out of my garden. Know what’s funny about that? I didn’t even plant any cucumbers this year. They just showed up.
Fried green tomatoes are a precious thing. They’re not just precious because they’re southern, and summery, and tasty. They’re precious, because when you pick a green tomato, you know it will never get bigger and fatter and redder and end up in a BLT on homemade bread come July, or even sliced up on a plate to eat on the porch swing when it’s good and hot out. It’s a decision you’ve made, that green tomato, to spend your tomato capital early on. If you’re a worrier, that’s a hard thing, being frivolous with your tomato opportunities. This year, suddenly, I’m not worried. There are tomatoes as far into the summer as I can see, toppling over their cages as they grow.
You were ready for a metaphor, right? Someone passed this Annie Dillard quote on to me the other day: “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.”
That’s about writing, and it’s about absolutely everything else in life, too. I thought about it while I picked a few big green tomatoes: Early Girls and Better Boys and Homesteads. I thought about holding back, as those of us who are a bit reserved tend to do, and also about throwing it all out there right from the get-go, and how hard that is. And then I thought some about what Audrey said to me after I wrote about my surprise strawberry crop this year. My strawberry patch started out as three little plants, and then the next year came back as five, and I was delighted with my seventeen strawberries. This year the plants expanded to fill my whole front-yard garden, and I had a handful of strawberries every day for weeks. I picked them straight out of the yard and ate them, warm from morning sunshine, on my way to work. Audrey pointed out that it seemed about right: I’ve been planting, and planting, and planting these last few years, working on education and career-changing and life-expanding, and now some of this work is starting to bear fruit. I hope she’s right. And I’m feeling optimistic.
First day of summer, y’all. Let’s celebrate. I’ll bring the fried green tomatoes. There are plenty more where these came from.