Sauce Fest ’14 and the Tomato Time Machine

tomatoes-01We’re  up to our elbows in spaghetti sauce.

Tomatoes are boiling and brewing.

There are fewer than usual in the garden this year.

Poor garden.  I don’t know what happened. Nothing grew except kale.  I can’t even find the basil.

My husband says it’s because of the garage (smashed in a storm when a tree fell) and various sports injuries.  We didn’t tend the garden.

But my cousin and I celebrate Sauce Fest, the making of a year’s worth of spaghetti sauce, every August regardless. We make enough sauce to last a year and freeze it in quart containers.

Sauce Fest is kind of a girl thing.  We listen to old music and gossip.  It’s also left over from my “freak” past.  I have fond memories of making gallons of spaghetti sauce with a roommate while Blind Faith blasted on the stereo and flies flew in the back door, because we kept it open.   (One morning we found a possum in the kitchen eating cat food. Eeeeeekkkkk!)

My cousin and I always plan the music in advance for Sauce Fest. This year we are listening to Procul Harum, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix.   And after we watched a video of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (see below) during a break, we wished to God we had lived in London in the ’60s.

If we could get in a time machine, we’d wear mod clothes like Julie Christie’s, get our hair done at Vidal Sassoon (wasn’t that a salon?), go to rock concerts, hang out at bookstores, get books signed by Margaret Drabble and Kingsley Amis, and attend the Aldermaston Marches (anti-nuclear weapons).  We’d support ourselves by  freelancing rock criticism (sounds unlikely, but remember, we’re young and mod in the time machine) and fluffy ’60s ‘life-style pieces to the hometown newsaper, or why not the New York Times.   I mean we’re incredibly well connected…

Anyway, back to Sauce Fest.

There’s nothing much to making tomato sauce.  Drop tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunge them into cold water and peel the skins. Sautée onions and garlic, then add chopped tomatoes, a generous dollop of red wine, one or two teaspoons of oregano, and a pinch of salt. Thicken with tomato paste.

We try different recipes, and it always turns out fine.

One of the highlights of the Fest is also the Tomato Trivia Tournament.  We each make up five tomato trivia questions.  As you can imagine, it’s hard even to come up with five.  I use the same ones every year.

Here are two classics.

“What’s ‘You like tomatoes, and I like tomahtoes.'”

“A Gershwin song, ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.'”

“What book with tomatoes in the title is set partly in a cafe in Whistle Stop?”

Fried Green Tomatoes?”

“That’s the movie title.  The book title is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

The last batch sauce is almost done, and my husband is the only one eating spaghetti for dinner.   My cousin and I are having ice cream.

It’ll be a while before I can eat a tomato.

And here’s the Procul Harum video.

4 thoughts on “Sauce Fest ’14 and the Tomato Time Machine

  1. On a non-tomato-related note, I’ve just finished reading Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin, which has been on my list for years – in fact, since you blogged about it on your old Frisbee site. Great book! I have a particular fondness for stories about people who love reading, and, apart from the enjoyable retelling of the Tam Lin story, it’s a wonderful account of the pleasures of books and bookishness. Probably a good thing I hadn’t read it before going to college (to study English) as my expectations of cerebral discussions about poetry with handsome and literary men would have been at even higher pitch than Gaudy Night had brought them. It reminded me a lot of Jo Walton’s Among Others, and, in fact, Walton has an article on Tor about Tam Lin and its influence on her work. Thanks for the recommendation!


  2. Karen, it was a whole day of tomatoes–enough! I’ll be happy in the winter, though.

    Catherine, Tam Lin is a classic! Pamela Dean inspires me to read plays and poetry that I wouldn’t ordinarily read. Such a fabulous book! I can’t pretend I had too many intellectual discussions in college, but I feel nostalgic when I read Tam Lin, because I was very happy in my reading life. It’s unusual in the U.S. for a college book to be set anywhere except the east coast, I swear. How I’d love to go to Blackstock College. And those Renaissance boys certainly would have kept us on our toes.


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