Monday, May 23, 2011

So Much Depends On A Red Ripe Tomato ...

The best thing I ate today was a half a slice of tomato.

My mom heard about a gyros place, and as she and I are on a constant quest for a worthwhile gyros, we went.

We were surprised to find that the home of the gyros was not a usual diner-type joint. It was a little Greek grocery with a couple of tables inside.

Uh oh. I can do a lot of damage in a little Greek grocery.

We ordered one gyros, to split. One, because if it's a crappy gyros (oh yes, there is such a thing), we'd rather not be wasteful, and 2) because if it's a tasty gyros, made well with enough meat, half is enough.

And we ordered some lemon rice soup, because Mom loves lemon rice soup and it's always best to know where it's good and where it's not.

We peered into the refrigerator cases before we sat down.

Oh dear. Jars of tarama. Better yet, jars of taramasalata. Yes, I should buy tarama and make taramasalata at home, but like that's going to happen sometime soon? And will I make enough to use an entire jar? Probably not. But in a pinch, I can get my taramasalata fix. (The little Greek grocery sells Greek bread, too.)

We sat down and tried the soup. It was worthy. Not the best, but worthy. I had a couple of spoonfuls and Mom finished the rest. I looked around while she ate.

"They have buckets of feta cheese," I said. Buckets. And shrink-wrapped hunks of kasseri, too. "We can make our own saganaki," I said. "We can flour it and fry it and douse it with brandy and set it on fire."

"And set my house on fire, too," Mom said. Well, yeah. There's that. The danger of an 8-foot ceiling.

The gyros arrived, not wrapped in paper and foil but piled on a pita on a plate, a mountain of meat and sliced onion topped with a generous dollop of tzatziki, a sprinkling of chopped, flat-leaf parsley (nice touch), and the most perfect, gorgeously red, thick slice of tomato.

I cut the whole shebang in half and attempted to fold mine into something I could eat. I ended up with a mouthful of tomato. The most outstanding tomato I've had in the month of May. If this were August, I wouldn't have been so amazed, but May? Tomato perfection in May?

It made my day, that slice of tomato. It made my day. And today was a pretty damn good day on a lot of levels. but even now, I'm happy, thinking about that tomato.

Both because the tomato was tasty but also because of what the tomato represents. The man who made that sandwich cares about what he does. I have seen too many hard, tasteless, mealy, anemically pink tomato wedges in my day. And as someone who likes to cook and who cares about the food she offers to others, I cannot understand why anyone would serve something so useless. Because a hard, tasteless, mealy, anemically pink wedge of tomato says to me, "I don't care about your enjoyment of this meal. I know this is inedible. It borders on offensive. But I'm going to serve it to you anyway."

Yes, that's a lot of meaning in a wedge of tomato, I know, but food is love, people. Well, some food is love.

The perfect, gorgeously red, thick slice of tomato was love. I appreciated that the man who greeted us when we walked into the store cares, that he takes pride in what he serves, even something as humble as a gyros sandwich.

We poked around the store after we were finished. I saw Kalamata olives the size of Key limes. And olive oil in bottles and cans. And coffee. And peppers of all kinds. And a jar of something that looked delicious with hazelnuts on the label. I should have bought one of those.

The cases along the wall featured vats of massive hunks of feta (the buckets were the grab-and-go variety; for those who need buckets of feta but quick) and an array of meats (pancetta; good to know) and a worrisomely large case of cookies of all kinds and pans of baklava. I adore baklava. But I resisted.

Though mom did buy some bacon, just to try it. (Our primary source is a five-hour drive away. Yes, we travel for bacon. And ham.) And I pointed out a wee box of cookies to her that hearkened back to little marshmallow cookies she had as a kid. So she had to buy those, too.

We've decided to go there weekly for lunch. We'll see if that pans out. But on our next adventure, I've already decided that I'm having octopus salad and spinach pie.

The only thing missing will be a glass of Roditis. I wonder if it's BYOB.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is this "there"? Or is it your intention to keep the name of this little Greek grocery to yourself, to keep the riff-raff away?

12:21 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

It's in Northwest Indiana:
Busy Bee Imported Foods
15 West 80th Place, Merrillville, IN 46410-5445
(219) 791-9729, not far from the Route 30 exit off I-65.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous martha said...

this place sounds amazing. thanks for sharing your adventure. i'm living vicariously down here in memphis.

9:38 AM  

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