Saturday, May 22, 2010

For Love of Harriet



I've always suffered mad book-love, even before I could actually read. Mama read to us for hours during long North Dakota winters, and I learned early on that even if you were snowed-in and drop-dead-bored, you could lose yourself in the world of Wonka; be comforted by Charlotte, spinning in a corner of the barn.

For most kids, summer means swimming, baseball, popsicles, games of kick-the-can. For me, summer meant books. Lots and lots of books. Mama would take me to the library twice a week and I'd get lost in possibility, studying shelves and scanning inside covers with ardent fingers. Books took me far away from myself; they made me forget that I didn't have any friends and felt nervous all the time. I could go places without ever leaving the four walls of my room. Books were magic.

One of my favorite books was (and still remains) Harriet the Spy. I adored Harriet--every sneaky, spunky inch of her. The summer I discovered Harriet, I realized that it was okay if nobody wanted me on their kickball team--Harriet would carry me through. And she did.

I loved Harriet so much that I told Mama that I needed to try Harriet's favorite lunch: The Tomato Sandwich. Mama, bless her heart, was happy to oblige.

Turns out, Harriet was right. There's nothing quite so fine in life as a tomato sandwich. To this day, it's one of my favorite afternoon repasts. Sure, things have changed a bit--I don't use squishy white bread and I jettison the Miracle Whip and I add an extra flavor or two--but the essence is still the same.

Once tomatoes are worth eating again, Harriet's sandwich calls to me. It's the first thing I crave when those plump, juicy, red suckers hit the Farmer's Market stalls. I snatch a good baguette, slice into vermillion, and fall in love all over again.



Tomato Sandwich (grown-up version)
serves one

Good crusty baguette, sliced
Best Foods mayonnaise, mixed with a squeeze of lemon and a little garlic
Fresh basil leaves
Spring/Summer tomato worth eating
Generous sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Layer ingredients on baguette in quantities that suit you. Devour. Spend the rest of the afternoon, if possible, lost in a good book.

64 comments:

  1. Mmm! Perfect little afternoon sandwich, didn't know it was Harriet's fave. Just put my tomato plant out (one of those upside down tomato thingies) Hope I can wait!.

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  2. Miracle Whip?! Hell no. . . it's Duke's mayonnaise down here!

    At our youngest daughter's wedding reception in Beaufort, SC, the one thing people still mention are the little tomato sandwiches with basil mayonnaise (yes, on white bread) that the caterer served on trays as the guests were arriving.

    Southern Living magazine has a really interesting tomato sandwich with Vidalia onion slices. Takes days to make it though.

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  3. Summers meant the same thing for me - free reign of books and imaginations and new adventures on paper :)

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  4. #1- We spent our summers the same way I see

    #2- Seriously jonesin' for a tomato sandwich now WITH squishy white bread and I don't eat white bread. :-)

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  5. Oh, long summers reading books and frequent trips to the library were the BEST. I do believe we were cut from the same cloth.

    And the tomato sandwich made my mouth water as soon as you mentioned it...I may have to make a trip to the store for some tomatoes now!!

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  6. Awwww, Kitch I LOVE you! I wanted to BE Harriet the Spy. In fact, I still have my little notebook from when I went around our neighborhood, "spying" and taking notes. And that, too, was the first time I had ever tried a tomato sandwich. It remains my favorite kind of sandwich - at least during the summer when homegrown tomatoes are at their peak. Have you ever tried it with basil mayonnaise? To die for!

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  7. Ah, I too loved reading Harriet the Spy. I even made up little 'spy kits' like Harriet's and spent hours up in a tree spying on our house. (Though nothing exciting ever happened!) I can't wait to have fresh tomatoes again. Your sandwich sounds awesome!

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  8. Other than spice I think we have completely different taste in food. I bet you like watermelon too. Tomatoes are something I have never been able to eat. The texture completely throws me off.

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  9. When you mentioned Harriet the Spy, I had a sudden rush of memory. I was about 10, and I'd decided to try a life of spying after reading Harriet. I sneaked onto my neighbor's back porch and climbed up to look into their kitchen window to look directly...into his face. He was doing the dishes and looked so mad I screamed and ran away. Thus ended my spy career.

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  10. I'm having a heart attack - I don't think I've ever met anyone who loved HTS as much as me! And now you! And a bunch of your posters, too..

    My problem is I loathe tomatoes. I mean, I love them once they've been beaten into submission (sauce, salsa, etc) but a whole tomato? I'm gagging!

    But Harriet..love her!

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  11. Love it....I loved to read as a child too. I always had my nose in a book. Suprisingly Tomotoes became an aquired taste for me. My mom put them in the fridge and they were always mealy...gross. Even today I have to tell her to leave them out. I had the most delicious BLT the other day...drooling looking at your sandwhich...The basil did me in, then it started me thinking of fresh mozerella.

    Must. Stop. Now.

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  12. what a perfect sandwich!! thanks for sharing!

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  13. That sounds like heaven to me: a fresh tomato sandwich and a great book...oh, and the time to enjoy them both. (Can we still be buds if I admit that I've never read Harriet the Spy? The horror!)

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  14. I never read Harriet the spy but I have always loved tomatoes on toast/bread with lots of salt, pepper and butter!!!

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  15. Would Harriet mind if I added a little fresh mozzarella? (Just a little? Please tell her I'm Italian and I can't help it. I'm sure she'll understand.)

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  16. Sadly tomatoes are now out of season in South Florida. I'll have to wait until November. :(

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  17. Oh, no mayo! Noooo!! Otherwise everything looks awesome.

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  18. My daughter is crazy for reading as well. It's hard to get her to put a book down! I used to read a ton when I was a kid but now I seem to have a hard time finishing the books I start. I've never read about Harriet but I am nuts for tomato sandwiches! They are simply delicious! I'm working at Farmer's Market every other Saturday and can't wait for fresh tomatoes to start.

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  19. My summers growing up were like this: breakfast, swim, read, lunch, swim, read, dinner, swim, read, sleep. Repeat!! And tomato sandwiches were always a favorite!!

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  20. A homegrown, thickly sliced tomato on bread (buttered and toasted with a touch of mayonnaise) open-faced! I can hardly wait. I'd love to know how folks prefer their tomato sandwiches.

    Just read your "Rachel" post. The first thing that turned me off about her? Her repeated use of "guys". I AM NOT a GUY! Gender neutral please! Second thing? "EVOO, sammies, etc.". I haven't watched Rachel in a long while but, she did do a few dishes that sounded good. I prefer the simple and elegant offerings of Ina Garten.

    I'm an avid reader as well. One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting in a big wicker rocker on the front porch, shaded by big maple trees with a stack of summer reading beside me.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  21. Oh yum! This sandwich looks so good. I'd add a little fresh mozzarella. So yummy.

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  22. You are the only person I know who could take a phenomenal remembrance (I had forgotten), and turn it into a loving story AND a recipe!

    Here's to Harriet the Spy (and somewhere, many secret notebooks full of observations and clues)... and a fabulous tomato.

    TKW, you are one fabulous tomato.

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  23. I loved reading growing up too - not unusual for me to read 4 books over a weekend!

    I somehow along the way lost my interest - I now read cookbooks as fiction! :D

    My mom would love that sandwich - me, I don't do raw tomatoes :(

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  24. P.S. I forgot to thank you for coming with me on the "Mitford" trip. It was great fun! My actual trip was almost ten years ago!!

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  25. Yummy sandwiches and good books. It reminds me of the suumer I read Little Women in an apple tree, picking apples to eat as I read.

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  26. I was like you as a child, I just loved to read and read and read. I well remember my mother buying me the latest book by an author I liked that the library did not have and being cross because I devoured it in one day - she felt she was not getting value for her money! But I am not a big tomato fan I have to say.....

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  27. I LOVED Harriet the Spy too. And have loved to read my entire life.

    And please send that sandwich to me!

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  28. We must have been separated at birth. My favorite thing to do in the summer was read...and I LOVED tomato sandwiches. The first sandwich was with bologna, the kind from the butcher, and then I always had a second...just tomatoes, no mayo, just a little salt...and Wonder Bread. HEAVEN.

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  29. Just planted my tomato plants this past week! And I can't wait to have those red, ripe beauties. Nothing is as good as a tomato from the vine. I love Harriet also. Gosh, are you a cutie in that crib! I can totally remember those toys like the yellow one you have up there. What ever happened to those things anyway??

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  30. That sounds great—makes me want to make one soon... and it reminded me of reading Nick Adams stories by Hemingway as a kid and having to try an onion sandwich. One time for that was plenty though. Although in those rare moments when I'm fly fishing on some river I can't help but feel that the moment is half-informed by my reading (it also inspired me to learn to fly fish in the midwest where no one fished that way).

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  31. Miracle Whip makes my heart smile - I can't even help it.

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  32. I love the way you write. I hope you know how good you are at it!

    And also, forgive me, but I can't stand tomatoes. BUT, I'm sure, for the tomato lover, the sandwich is divine. :)

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  33. I used to stand in the park for hours waiting for the bookmobile in Chicago! And isn't that funny about the tomato sandwich - my daughter's favorite sandwich is a tomato, lettuce and mayo sandwich!

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  34. loved Harriet and love tomato sandwiches.
    did you know that east of the Rockies it's Hellman's? The jingle that we know..."bring out the Best Foods and bring out the best" sounds so stupid "bring out the Hellman's and bring out the best." Oh well. It's like Dreyer's and Edy's. Just makes me sure I need to be this side of the Rockies...
    with my spy notebook and tomato sandwich.

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  35. Oh my goodness I was completely the same. Book mental as a child (I cover it up better now that I'm a 'grown-up') There's a great picture of me asleep and my bed is absolutely covered with books that I was reading. One was never enough!

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  36. That's too funny. I used to eat tomato sandwiches because Harriet did as well... every now and then I re-read the book too, even though I almost know it by heart!

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  37. I've read Harriet The Spy...is that wrong?

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  38. When The Mistah and I first started dating and he asked me what I liked to do, I told him "I like to read". Does that make me a nerd of the highest magnitude or what?

    Love, love, love tomato sammies. A sprinkle of salt and a little mayo (Hellman's only, no Miracle Whip)is summer bliss.

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  39. Huge fan of tomatoes especially in sandwiches! But I've never read Harriet. Can we still be friends?

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  40. When summer's gorgeous red tomatoes appear, a tomato sandwich is the only answer. I make a basil mayo (real mayo) for mine...on rustic bread. Ummmm.

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  41. Summers buried with a nose in a book - ahhhh, I know that well and miss it to death. Hours lost in between the covers of a good read, those were the days.

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  42. Harriet is so right! At the farmer's market this weekend I was tempted by the heirloom varieties. My deck has no sun so they would not do well, but I was so tempted.

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  43. Nothing like a tomato sandwich with a homegrown tomato!

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  44. That sandwich sounds delish!

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  45. I loved and still love the companionship of books. I think many also introduced me to foods I hadn't considered before (good for a kid who tended to get stuck in food ruts). A great kids' book ON such jags: Bread and Jam for Frances. One of my all-time favorites.

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  46. Oh my, Kitch. I think I'm your sister from another mother. Summer break was all about the reading for me! Our public library would have a special summer reading program to promote reading. I always won the prize for the top category, which was something way too easy like 2 books a week. My dad would scold me to get outside and enjoy the weather instead of spending all day with my nose in a book. So I'd read outside.

    And - oh my - the tomato sandwich. That is my heaven. Not just any tomato. One of the first red, juicy, plump tomatoes from our garden. Store tomatoes can't even come close. I prefer my tomatoes sliced thick, on white "kitchen bread" from the local bakery, toasted lightly, with Miracle Whip (one of the few things I don't use mayo for), with salt and pepper. Awww, my mouth is watering!

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  47. I'm not a really big tomato fan...but that looks delicious.

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  48. I, too, loved Harriet. And just about any other book I could get my grubby little hands on.

    A tomato sandwich just isn't a proper tomato sandwich unless it's on plain grocery store white bread. However, I have upgraded the mayo from Hellman's to Kewpie. :)

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  49. Straight home from work I ate a tomato (sliced with salt) while standing at the kitchen counter. I didn't even offer any to the boys. I smiled and thought of you. Thanks!

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  50. Seriously, we are a marriage made in heaven. Tomato sandwich AND Harriet? Amazing. I, however, haven't upgraded my sandwich and it's still one of my first loves. Maybe I should experiment.

    I need to get that book for my girl...

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  51. I can totally relate to this post. I loved Judy Blume books. My favorite Judy Blume book was "Hello God, it's me Margaret" I can still remember the trips to the library on the city bus. I checked out as many books as they would let me carry out. Like you, reading was a wonderful escape.


    These days, I read cookbooks, and cooking magazines like novels.

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  52. I agree with Harriet. I love tomato sandwiches. I love tomatoes period.

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  53. Harriet rocks. And you rock.

    I WANT THAT SANDWICH RIGHT NOW!

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  54. Reading is the only thing that can truly get me to get lost in another world and forget about whatever drama/stress I'm dealing with at the moment. It's the only thing I can do where my mind won't wander to the realities of life. If only I could do it more often!

    And I loved Harriet too!! I can picture myself lying in my parents hammock reading it.

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  55. I have my mom to thank too for my love of books - but alas, I've never read Harriet the Spy. I will have to remedy that, especially since I can read it to my little girl.

    The tomato sandwich sounds delicious. Nothing says summer quite like a gorgeous and juicy tomato fresh from the garden (or market).

    I discovered quite by accident another twist to this perennial favorite. We have sliced tomatoes and avocados between multi-grain bread spread with mayo on one side and hot mango chutney (brand of choice: Patak) on the other. Di.Vine. (no pun intended - or maybe a little)

    It's now our go to sandwich of the house.

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  56. Dear TKW,

    Every time I read one of your posts, I love your blog a little bit more. I was also a bit lonely and nervous growing up, and I am also a huge book fan. Harriet the Spy was one of my favorites as well.

    In retrospect, I think that not being popular and getting teased as a young girl helped to make me the woman, quite happy and accomplished by my own list of life goals, that I am today. Clearly you have found some happiness and success too...cheers.

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  57. That sandwich looks so incredibly delicious and that picture of you asleep with the book is priceless!

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  58. My Harriet was Ramona. Love those books. Not sure how I feel about the forthcoming movie ... I am sure how I feel about the tomato sandwich though. Like CK, I take mine with plenty o' fresh mozzarella. Yum!

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  59. Oooo this looks delicious. Have you ever added ripe avocados to this? I bet it would taste divine.

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  60. I do the Italian version - fresh mozzarella instead of mayo, and a little drizzle of olive oil. Mmmmmm. . .

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  61. It's so hard to get good tomatoes here in Florida, none are as good as what my mom grew in Michigan!

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  62. I love a good tomato sandwich - but it needs to be a good tomato - you are totally right! Great minds think alike...! PS You look like an angel in that photo! xxx

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  63. A tomato sandwich is on my "last meal" list. The tomato must be ripe and fresh from the vine. That's all I stipulate. My mother insists on white bread and Duke's mayo (we're Southern you know). A tomato sandwich just screams summer.

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  64. Thank you for reminding me how much I loved "Harriet the Spy." Also how desperately I need a tomato sandwich!

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