Tomato

The Ultimate Tomato Sandwich Is Here, Get It While You Can

August 23, 2018
Photo by Ty Mecham

I've lived for peak tomato season for as long as I can remember—since way before I knew tomatoes had a “peak season.”

I had many early childhood obsessions, including (but not limited to) shark attack data, the whereabouts of my Sims, and getting to the bottom of whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio smoked cigarettes (I was largely unsupervised). But the earliest and strongest obsession I can remember was with a trilogy of children’s books called Voyage to the Bunny Planet. In particular, I loved the story First Tomato.

First Tomato follows its protagonist, a bunny named Claire to whom I related fervently, as she navigates a bad day. We’re talking super bad: She has to sit through a two-hour math class, she’s publicly humiliated when she's unable to do a cartwheel in P.E., and to make matters worse, it’s freezing out, so she gets snow in her shoes. (It’s not explained why, as a rabbit, Claire is made to wear shoes.)

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Things take a turn for Claire, though, when she’s magically transported to a dream universe called Bunny Planet, an alternate realm ruled by a benevolent (bunny) queen, Janet. On Bunny Planet, everything is perfect: It’s summer—peak tomato season!!—and Claire is now suddenly barefoot and dressed in an effortlessly cute green gingham dress and a straw hat. She looks like how I wished I looked the one time a year I go to an outdoor barbecue. And oh my gosh, let me tell you about Queen Janet. Perpetually draped in a purple velvet cape, Janet lives in a garden and has a maxi dress patterned with seasonal produce. I revered that bunny-woman like she was Beyoncé.

But back to Claire. On Bunny Planet, she finds the biggest, juiciest, ripest tomato in the garden; it “smells like rain," for God's sake. Big hitch, though: Claire desperately wants to eat the tomato right then and there, but she somehow “knows” (an ill-explained plot line) that she has to take it home to her mother for use in a soup.

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Top Comment:
“I grew up on Rosemary Wells but somehow missed Voyage to the Bunny Planet until last year when I was super pregnant and buying (maybe too many) children's books. We are obsessed with this book, and when anyone in the house (mainly, myself or my husband) are in a bad mood, we ask each other if we need to go to the Bunny Planet!!! We love tomato toast in these parts, and just had a more decadent version with puff pastry. Your version looks great!”
— Katherine L.
Comment

The idea of Claire not being able to immediately bite into the ripe tomato right there in the garden killed me as a child. I could never enjoy the wholesome ending where mother and daughter share a cozy soup dinner, because I was so shaken by what could’ve been for Claire in the garden.

I know, I know: The story is supposed to teach kids about self control. Well, it didn’t work on me. When August rolls around, I'm not sitting around waiting for any soup-flavors to meld. I'm grabbing some bread and a sharp knife, because it's tomato sandwich time.

In fact, my open-faced tomato sandwich actively discourages self control. It’s for those times when you find the best-looking tomato (whether on a mythical planet, or at your local farmers’ market) and you’re so excited to eat it, you don’t even have the patience to close a sandwich before taking a bite. It celebrates heavy-handed mayonnaise application, yolky dregs, and flaky salt.

Do not attempt to eat while wearing white. You have been warned. Photo by Ty Mecham

It pays homage to all of the great tomato sandwiches before it—especially this one by Merrill, which is honestly one of the top five reasons I wanted to work at Food52 (Amanda’s brown butter tomatoes were the other four…). My sandwich tips its hat to BLTs, and wonders whether tomato toast might be its second-cousin.

It’s the tomato sandwich I’ve been dreaming of for two decades. I only wish I could make one for Claire.

And for the LibraryThing user who said of First Tomato: A Voyage to the Bunny Planet, “At some level it's sort of cute and so are the illustrations, but at the same time it's a sad story, even bordering on disturbing,”—well, perhaps my Ultimate Tomato Sandwich can provide a happier ending.


Leftover Mayo? Follow me!

What's your favorite way to use peak-season tomatoes? Let us know in the comments!

10 Comments

Tara W. August 25, 2018
Yum! Theres nothing quite as tasty as a vine ripened tomato from the garden. I love putting them on toasted sourdough and them topping with sharp cheddar and then bake it till the cheese melts and starts to brown. I'm still waiting for the tomatoes to ripen over here.... Waiting for soup so to speak. Lol
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 25, 2018
That sounds so delicious! Will have to get sharp cheddar this week while they’re still in season over here...
 
Anna August 25, 2018
Ella! I loved this read. You are so funny! The comments on Bunny Planet are also cracking me up. 👏👏😂👍
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 25, 2018
Thank you, Anna!
 
Katherine L. August 25, 2018
I grew up on Rosemary Wells but somehow missed Voyage to the Bunny Planet until last year when I was super pregnant and buying (maybe too many) children's books. We are obsessed with this book, and when anyone in the house (mainly, myself or my husband) are in a bad mood, we ask each other if we need to go to the Bunny Planet!!! We love tomato toast in these parts, and just had a more decadent version with puff pastry. Your version looks great!
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 25, 2018
So nice to meet a fellow Bunny Planet obsessive! Your puff pastry tomato dish sounds incredible, was it like a galette? <br /><br />Ella
 
Nate August 23, 2018
You say tomato, I say tomatoes!
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 24, 2018
Over here, we like both!
 
Lafcadio August 23, 2018
I LOVED those Bunny Planet books, too, but was no fan of the tomato. It wasn't until I was an adult that I started to adore them. RE: this recipe—thoughts on adding a really good, tuna in olive oil and capers?
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. August 23, 2018
Hi Lafcadio,<br /><br />Sounds fantastic! Let me know if you try it.<br /><br />Ella