The simple wonder of bread and tomatoes

The Associated PressAugust 21, 2013 

Obviously, the season has a role in this, but lately I’ve found myself craving bread and fresh tomatoes.

It’s a combination with a history for me. When I was a kid, my go-to summer sandwich — and I always made it for myself because I was the only one who could make it right — was slabs of whole-wheat bread smeared thickly with Miracle Whip and topped with hunks of extra-sharp cheddar cheese and a single, think slab of tomato. The slab had to be at least 1 inch thick and had to be cut from the center of the fruit. No ends or tops, please.

It was heaven. Rich and creamy and sharp and fresh. To this day, that sandwich remains a comfort food I return to. Usually around midnight.

By the time I was a tween, my family had moved to Germany and weekends were spent driving around various parts of Europe. We called it eating our way through the continent, for dining and planning on dining did seem to occupy much of our time. But no matter where we were, lunch always followed the same template.

We’d stop at a small, local bakery and grab a heavy loaf of rustic bread. Then on to a grocer for tomatoes, a hunk of cheese and a jar of blisteringly hot mustard. Then we’d find a park and sit down with our spread, tearing off hunks of bread, dabbing them with mustard and topping them with ragged chunks of cheese and slices of tomato.

As repetitive as that lunch sounds, it actually was a wonderfully delicious way to explore the different cuisines. The breads and cheeses vary so much between regions and countries.

Now that I’m adult and have a child of my own, I don’t find myself wandering Europe during weekends quite so much. I’d actually be happy just to get out to a movie now and then. But I still crave — particularly this time of year — the simple pleasure of bread and tomato. So I decided to create a grown up version, rich with garlic and rosemary.

But the focus, as it should be, remains on the bread and tomatoes.

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