Tuesday, October 23, 2012


You're looking at the tail end of our tomato crop -- the hard little tomatoes that will probably never mature, still hanging on the vine like green gumballs. I've left them to grow and ripen as long as possible, but the process is pretty much at a standstill. I guess it's just too chilly. My prediction is that they will become mulch.

This is the last batch I actually picked, and have you ever seen a sadder clutch of tomatoes in your life? I thought I'd try ripening them on our windowsill, so there they lie, battered and scarred after weeks of wind knocking them against our balcony railing. I'm trying to decide whether I would ever want to eat them. They might be better off as mulch, too.

As much as I like autumn, I can appreciate its melancholy reputation. Who couldn't, looking at tomatoes like that? And the tomato plants have inexplicably put forth a few more tiny yellow flowers, like they're not quite through. I feel like telling them, relax. It's over.

As long as we're talking about sad and pathetic, here is the saddest store in our neighborhood. It's right up by Notting Hill Gate, and it never looks better than this. It doesn't even have a name. I call it the Skank Store, and yes, I have been known to get a liter of milk there from time to time, when everything else is closed.

The Moroccans have a great word for poor, pathetic people or things: "miskeen." That is a miskeen store, and our tomatoes are miskeen, too. No two ways about it.

Yesterday was damp and gray. I walked up to Notting Hill Gate to buy some razors (not at the Skank Store) and a man stopped me and asked for directions to Victoria Gardens. I'd never heard of Victoria Gardens, so I pulled up a map on my iPhone. We scrutinized the map and couldn't find it anywhere. "Well, I know it exists, because I work there," said the man.

I resisted asking him why he needed directions to his place of business. It seemed a bit fishy, but he did not try to sell me a ring. Maybe he'd just spent too long at the pub. Eventually we determined that he was headed in the wrong direction entirely. He walked off disconsolately, carrying his briefcase into the mist.


Elizabeth said...

This post made me giggle -- your tomatoes, the store, oh, lord it was funny. I'm wondering why you don't slice those green babies up, dip them in cornmeal or something and fry them with lots of salt?

Lynne said...

Yes, my first reaction was fried green tomatoes and then I read Elizabeth's comment!

I like that word, miskeen. I think I'll start using it.

The man sounds like a scam to me. Do you have an iPhone? Maybe it was a ploy to take your phone and if you didn't have one then you were safe. ? I would have been skeptical too. What? You don't know where you work?

Ms. Moon said...

Oh, Steve. This post made me melancholy! No. I already was. You can just cut those tomatoes up and cook them into a stir fry. Or...let them be mulch.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a beautiful, autumnal, gorgeous post.

I follow Ari Shapiro on FB - do you? His posts make me think of you; he has the same kind of clear eyed way of seeing the world, with humor, intelligence and appreciation.

Mulch is good. We will all be mulch some day.


The Bug said...

Mike finally cut down our tomato plants - but they still had blooms too. The last of ours are still ripening on the table.

I'm always melancholy in the fall - I try to be upbeat about the beauty and the cooler weather, but it doesn't really work...

Linda Sue said...

The man probably meant Victoria Tower Garden. Which is obvious along the Thames. Did he do the silly walk?
Our neighbors have a large plastic sheet over their tomatoes, it is very cold but they seem to be ripening. Our climate is much the same here as in London/Kent. That shop, where you got milk one time looks so sketchy- They could use biz advice!At least straighten the awning- paint it with happy little creatures enjoying...milk?
Our pig loved tomatoes, ate them red or green or orange, the seeds fermented inside of her and she "planted" the next years crop successfully- you need a pig.

Lynne said...

Duh, I need to be more awake before I start leaving comments: you DO have an iPhone.. even more mysterious.

Steve Reed said...

Elizabeth: I thought about that! I tried to make fried green tomatoes years ago (when they were the rage because of the movie) and I didn't think they were all that great. Besides, these tomatoes are really small. Slicing might not be an option!

Lynne: Miskeen is a very handy word. It was a favorite among the Peace Corps volunteers in Morocco! The lost guy didn't seem very threatening, just strangely bewildered. Something wasn't right there.

Ms Moon: Stir fry -- now THAT is a good idea. I didn't mean to make you melancholy! In fact, I was trying to be lighthearted. Writer fail!

Reya: I'm embarrassed to say I don't know who Ari Shapiro is -- but I'll look him up! Thanks for the kind words. We shall indeed be mulch. Which is kind of comforting. :)

Bug: Yeah, we're about to toss ours, too. They've pretty much hit a wall. I had no idea they'd keep on blooming, though.

Linda Sue: No, he really did mean Victoria Gardens, which as it turns out is a tiny street off Notting Hill Gate. I could just see us keeping a pig! LOL! I love pigs but I think the neighbors might object. Not to mention Pickles.