Each August it is the same story over and over again: I cannot see anymore tomatoes. Maybe you will ask: how come you have had enough of the wonderful tasty tomatoes they have in Greece? Well, in August I am fed up with these little red rascals.
In winter and in spring you eat a savoury green salad called marouli: a spicy mix which is perfect with a tomato, mind you, only one! In summer all dinners include the famous choriatiki – tomatoes, cucumber, feta, onion and green paprika. Greeks serve them in the afternoon and again in the evening. Of course, you needn’t eat it – there’s always plenty of other food on the table. The strange thing is every time you intend not to eat tomatoes, your fork automatically wanders to the choriatiki to take a piece of tomato, and I have to admit they always have a refreshing taste.
All summer long tomatoes grow in the field next to me, so I have heaps of them in the refrigerator, in the vegetable basket beside the kitchen dresser; or because there’s nowhere else to put them, even on top of the fridge. When I see how many there are I can’t decide what to cook with them.
It would be a terrible waste to let them lie so long that they rot, so I try to include at least one from the tomato mountain in every dish I prepare: with breakfast a tomato under the egg sunny side up; for lunch, bread with cheese and tomato, a club sandwich with tomatoes, baked eggplant and octopus with tomato. Later with a drink, tomatoes with a lick of pesto or a slice of salami rolled around a piece. For dinner tomatoes go with chicken, with shrimps, in the rice, the paella, the couscous or pasta (with lots of tomatoes). And before you go to bed a glass of vodka with …
I am glad Greeks don’t like mixing up ingredients. There will never be any tomatoes in your tzatziki, no fried tomatoes amongst your fried patates, or tomato balls (although I have found out later that indeed they do exist); they don’t put tomato slices on the souvlaki skewer nor is feta served with tomatoes.
The only way I can seriously reduce the huge red deluge is to make tomato sauce. I am even happy to have found a recipe which involves removing the peel and all the seeds, a lot of work, but it needs so many tomatoes it’s a good way to get rid of them. Its taste is very concentrated and in just a few hours the bottom of my vegetable basket will be visible again.
I am aware that my tomato aversion is temporary, and that as soon as they disappear from the field – they will keep coming until November – I will once again long for the taste of a lovely fresh red tomato.
So, I am trying to make as much sauce as possible, which means we can eat pasta all year round. I try different versions: the concentrated sauce without too many chilli peppers, (Greeks do not always like spicy food); a spiced up variation for foreigners who like it hot; tomato ketchup, tomato-paprika sauce, tomato salsa, preserved cherry tomatoes, tomato chutney, tomato marmalade, everything you could possibly make with tomatoes.
There is one Greek who likes to follow my culinary experimentations, but when I mentioned jam made from tomatoes he thought I was crazy. He could not believe such a sweet concoction could be edible, and yet Greeks preserve both fruit and vegetables in sugar (sweet spoon), so any fruit including tomatoes done that way should be very tasty, so why not as marmalade?
Another summer binge has also started: karpouzia. Watermelons are everywhere and although I am not too keen to eat them after every meal, I know it’s healthy to eat fruit and I do rather like a slice or two after a nice dinner. However, afterwards when I lie down for a siesta I might dream of large chocolate balls filled with white cream, or an enormous lake of chocolate mousse, or maybe a huge cream cake with chocolate and fresh strawberries, or just a simple mocha pie.
To forget such sweet dreams I make myself a luxury frappé: cold coffee with big blobs of vanilla or chocolate (if I can find it) ice cream. Mind you, even though I really don’t want to complain about the food here, sometimes I should be allowed to scream: I AM FED UP WITH TOMATOES! Please can I have a green marouli with corn, pickles, mushrooms, blue cheese and croutons?