When I was a child, we nurtured a few scrappy tomato plants each season, but the fruits of our labor provided enough for only a salad or two. The sun's indirect light in our back yard meant we were left pining for tomatoes.
For a tomato fix, nearly every Sunday, my grandmother, Nannie, and I would head to the house and country garden of Mrs. Tatum. After thoughtful inspection, Nannie would select a few of the weightiest, rubiest gems, instructing me to place them carefully in one bag before we moved to the ones she called "greenies" -- and I called good eating.
Back home, I'd pull up a stool and watch Nannie slice the green tomatoes for frying in her jet black, pockmarked skillet. I see her near a large kitchen window, holding up a slice with the most intricately laced interior. "Notice that blush," she'd say, reminding me on more than one occasion that tomatoes ripen from the inside out. "That hint of pink gives them a little sweetness." We'd fry a few platefuls for the late afternoon dinner, letting the piping-hot tomato cakes de-sizzle atop the same bags in which they'd been brought inside.
Typically, we'd eat the slices with only a squeeze of lemon, and often alongside black-eyed peas or lima beans, pork chops or smothered chicken. Sometimes we'd add a dab of homemade mayonnaise atop the slices or, if company was coming for lunch, maybe some dollops of shrimp salad.
I don't eat fried green tomatoes nearly as much as I used to, but I will forever cherish them. There's nothing lovelier than a sun-warmed, earthy-sweet, cool, beautiful tomato -- in any color or variety. I've branched out to savor their culinary charms in numerous ways, but I relish introducing friends to the pleasures of the green version -- sliced and grilled; fried and added to BLTs; chopped up in a fruity salsa; blended into ice-cold gazpacho or warm curried stews; mixed into bread, or even dessert.