published Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Dalton Roberts: Eating tomatoes in winter


by Dalton Roberts

I am a well-known proponent of tomato sandwiches made from real home grown tomatoes. The good news is that we're getting closer every day to plucking that first big, red, perfect tomato from the vine. Already I can barely sleep for thinking about that juicy succulence.

Remember, I'm the guy that has to stand over the kitchen sink to eat a tomato sandwich.

But even now I have some semi-good news for you. My darling mate and I have collaborated this winter with Dr. Redbird Clingan, chief of the tomato surgery department at the University of Birchwood. In case you don't know, Dr. Clingan, in my opinion, is the world's foremost tomato surgeon.

Our research project started last fall. We've had breakfast together every Saturday for 15 years. One Saturday this winter, he showed up with a beautiful tomato he had bought at the curb market.

"This tomato looked so good we need to give it a taste, just like we do spring and summer tomatoes," he said.

We dared not even build up our hopes one flicker. In all these years, we have never had a winter tomato fit to bring anywhere close to your mouth. But because of his professional reputation as a tomato surgeon, we grunted, "Aww, go ahead and waste your time on it if you want to."

He skillfully skinned it with a serrated knife and carefully instructed me to tap a thin coating of Celtic sea salt on each slice he cut.

Let me pause right here long enough to acquaint you with Celtic salt.

It was first marketed by the Grain and Salt Society in Asheville, N.C., but is now owned by the daughter of the man who first marketed it, Selina, and is called Selina Naturally (www.Selina Naturally.com).

I first ordered a taste sample many years ago, and not one grain of any other kind of salt has passed my lips since. Two reasons: the incredible taste and the fact that it has 13 important minerals. Table salt has only one: sodium.

Now back to the trial sandwich Dr. Clingan had in the surgical suite when I veered off into Celtic salt.

Knowing the tomato came from the curb market, we probably yawned as we tasted it. But it was so good we all said, "Wow!" at the same time.

Since then, we have had a tomato a week all winter long and every one of them has been delicious. I am sure the great taste is partially due to the Celtic salt, but I also believe some of it comes from the quality of the tomatoes lovingly selected by Chief Surgeon Clingan.

To provide the ultimate test on our sea salt and tomato formula, I'm going to cut up some tomatoes, give them a good Celtic salt coating and take them to the workhouse. Prison food is notoriously nefarious. If the guys hoist me to their shoulders and carry me around singing, "He's a jolly good fellow," we will then be certain our winter tomato project is a blazing success.

Redbird once asked me when the paper referred to him as a legend, "Why if I'm a legend am I so poor?"

Hang on Redbird. Our day is coming!

Contact Dalton Roberts at Downhomep@aol.com.

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