As an eager college senior who’d just been granted freedom (through protest and special dispensations) from the meal plan, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, Bill McKibben’s essay on his year of eating local, and Michael’s Pollen’s Omnivore’s Delemnia.
Compared to my current self (with car-requiring commutes of 30 minutes in all directions for my 6 jobs) who often forgets reusable bags at the grocery store, my college city-dwelling self excelled at most things environmental. But there was one place I knew I was lacking. I never made my own tomato sauce.
I worked on a few farms over the years where surplus tomatoes were mine for the taking. But I’m as lazy as the next guy and Bove’s makes such great stuff I could never compete. My buddies Barbara and Bill, however, left a voice in my head that insisted that to have “made it” in the local food world you had to make your own tomato sauce.
This past August, when I drove home from a month of living in the woods eating Quaker Chewy bars and headed straight to a friend’s wedding, I left my piles of dirty laundry in our apartment’s hallway. The next day, I dove head on into farming and found myself surrounded by so many beautiful, if slightly imperfect tomatoes.
It was now or never. If I didn’t bring home 30 lbs of those seconds today, I might grow old having never made sauce. The dirty laundry could wait. The sauce could not.
Forget that it was a weeknight, that I had no notable plan of what to store the sauce in to freeze it; that I’d spend almost as much on dried herbs to add to the sauce as I’d save from not buying sauce later. I had to borrow a neighbor’s pot. I boiled the sauce over two nights and still had to add tomato paste to thicken it up. And I definitely forgot that pile of laundry in the hallway.
I’m here to tell you can have it all. We ate our first freezer sauce on the first full day of winter and it tasted full of summer. I can see why most folks treat sauce making as day-off-from work activity. But on my days off of work? I’d rather be rock climbing, working a second job, or enjoying time with the husband I abandoned while eating chewy bars that month before. I did sacrifice some sleep and that valuable floor space in the hallway.
Whether it tastes really freaking good because it is, or because Barbara and Bill say theirs does, or because it had gosh darn better for all that effort, I may never know. And who cares.