Autumn’s offerings of fruits and vegetables have taken on a new meaning for me. Sundays are now major cooking days as I make big batches of tomato sauce out of the harvest of Roma tomatoes from our garden. I’ve been reminded of what I loved about cooking when I first started making food for myself: fragrance, color, texture, rhythm when chopping and stirring, patience, sharing. Waiting for tomato sauce to be reduced by half bathes our home in savory aroma and little bubbly noises barely audible over other sounds. And it’ll give us comfort again after the garden is done for the season, when Minnesota breathes its wintery breath in our faces and we want nothing more than to sit down with a warm dinner plate.
The older I get, the more I seek the connectedness that growing and preserving my own food brings to mind. I feel a new urgency to share, take care of myself and my family, my friends. Maybe this is part of missing my adult kids, feeling that quiet that has crept into our home now that my partner and I – and our two dogs – are the only ones making any noise here.
As I wrote the first draft of this post, the latest batch of sauce simmered on the stove. The scent of the recently sautéed onions and garlic lingered. I could hear our neighbor mowing his lawn, the Minnesota Vikings vs. the St. Louis Rams football game on television, a multitude of birds twittering in our back yard. The burbling of the tomato sauce moved beneath it all and I thought about what really makes the foundation of our lives. What sustains us.
Tomato sauce itself is straightforward. Tomatoes. Onions. Garlic. Olive oil. A few fresh herbs. Time. Clean jars to hold it all. What sustains us is a much bigger question, but maybe I should not complicate it.
Autumn is more than a produce harvest this year. It’s looking more and more like a big bowl of pasta that makes me feel safe and warm, with a little sauce on the side. And there’s going to be enough for everyone who comes through our door.
That is sustenance.
|Ingredients for tomato sauce|
|Step 1: saute onions and garlic in olive oil|
|Step 2: add tomatoes, bring to boil, simmer 20 minutes|
|Step 3: pulse mixture in a food processor|
|Step 4: strain out the tomato seeds and skin|
|Step 5: simmer strained sauce
until reduced by half (this takes hours)
|Step 6: heat up your clean jars and lids|
|Step 7: put the cooked sauce into the warm jars,
boil in a water bath for 35 minutes,
then wait 24 hours to check the seal.