So speaking of CSAs, ours recently gave us a bunch of yellow tomatoes (along with red tomatoes and grape tomatoes), and while my first thought was yellow tomato cake! and then, maybe fried yellow tomatoes! it was Tim who suggested turning these tomatoes into one of those things tomatoes do best: sauce.
Golden tomato sauce.
I don’t know how sauce works in your household, but in ours, it goes something like this:
1. Prep the tomatoes (i.e., boil water, remove the stems of tomatoes and score an x at the bottom, plop them in the pot for eight seconds, remove and cool, peel off skins like they’re a loose jacket; chop)
2. Saute garlic and olive oil in a skillet, sometimes with onion, sometimes without
3. Add chopped tomatoes, maybe with basil or maybe with wine
4. Add salt
5. Cook for a while and watch and season to taste, adding sugar or honey or herbs or spices or whatever you need until it tastes the way you like.
It’s not complicated, not even as hard as putting together a blog post if we’re being honest, but it works. Every time. And with golden tomatoes, it works so well that it makes you look like you’re really smooth in the kitchen, like you’re doing more than just that basic, mindless thing you usually do to pull together sauce, the mellow and sweet flavor of the fresh tomatoes doing all the work while you go about your business washing the dishes or talking to your husband about weekend plans.
Golden tomato sauce is the kind of thing I absolutely love. Like a back-pocket secret. Something you can do or make that is low on effort and high on value, so when you’re done, the reward so far exceeds the journey that it’s almost not worth talking about. Like when you turn your shrunken maxi dress into a sundress that gets complimented just because you cut it, with a scissors, in two seconds flat; or being told you have a ‘trendy’ dining room with mismatched chairs when actually you just picked your chairs because they seemed cute and easy to paint and, mostly, were under $10 each; that quick and easy pie crust recipe that always turns out flaky; the morning smoothies that use up leftover lettuce and too-ripe bananas and kale.
And the way I see it, when you do one of these too-easy, still-impressive things and someone comes to you, eyes all wide and admiring, asking how you come up with this stuff, you have two ways you can respond: (1) smile or (2) tell them the truth.
Which do you do?
I mean, think about it: When someone’s impressed at your handmade pillows or golden sauce, it feels good. You know something. You did something. Victory! So sometimes it’s kind of nice to just smile and nod and bask in that praise and say, oh, it’s nothing, leaving the other person to wonder at your talent and wish they had it, too. I think there are generations of cooks who did this, who told us younger folks that some people just have it and others don’t and, sorry, kid, maybe you’re one of the don’ts.
But I don’t buy it.
Because sure, it’s fine to keep our back-pocket secrets, fine to make our sauce and watch people eat it and feel good—but that doesn’t change the fact that our wedding ideas came from Pinterest or that the origin of a recipe came from our grandmas. Just like we learned our secrets, other people can learn them, too, which is why I’m a little averse to phrases like “good cooks” or bad ones.
Why is it that we think calling someone a bad cook should make us a better one? Why do we need to put down someone else’s ability in order to feel more confident of our own? Why can’t we instead join together, all of us, bloggers and cookbook authors and home chefs and grandmas, and trade secrets and share stories and grow?
Is that crazy? Maybe.
Or maybe, when one of us shares our secrets, even if it’s a little one, it gives another of us the courage to try. And maybe in the process, the both of us take another step forward towards that kind of sharing-and-growing-together world of cooking and eating and living that we all want to be part of, the kind where we’re all rooting for each other, not competing, the kind where cooking is just mostly fun.
Maybe I’ll start—with golden tomato sauce.