The first tomato sauce I ever made from scratch came from the Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipes cookbook.
It was a fresh, chunky sauce, and simple, too, with extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, two pounds of ripe tomatoes, a few tablespoons of fresh basil and a dash of salt.
I diligently followed each step, coring the tomatoes, immersing them into boiling water, then into ice water, and peeling and discarding the fleshy skin. I cut each tomato into 1/2 inch chunks and added them to the hot pan, where the garlic was already releasing its sweet pungency into the oil and air.
I remember my clumsiness as I peeled the blanched tomatoes, how my hands covered in red juice.
I remember the clear afternoon light of the summer sun streamed into my parents’ kitchen, and the gurgling sauce offering its song up to the silence.
I remember my dad coming into the kitchen as I stirred and telling him of the incredible contentment that comes from making sauce.
Mostly I remember what he said to me:
“Never lose the time to do this. Never lose the time to do the things that you enjoy.”
I was still in college then, going into my Junior year, and he was working at home on a weekend. He couldn’t remember the last time he cooked for pleasure, though he was good at it, and he enjoyed it.
He was an entrepreneur, and at that time in his life his company was well-established, as was his constant traveling to teach, his many nights of working from home, his two-week vacation time for the year. But he was passionate about his work, and if not for our conversation that day, I’m not sure I’d have known that he missed these moments of time sinking away into sauce.
I chopped fresh basil as the tomato chunks softened, and then added them to the pan, the delicate green flecks bringing the sauce alive into summer.
The simplicity of homemade tomato sauce invited me to make it more often, and eventually I’d learn to make it by feel rather than recipe. The only instruction that I held to was the one from my dad: never lose time to do the things you enjoy.
Eventually I became an entrepreneur, too, though the nature of my work keeps me outside, close to the land and my food.
Still, we work long hours for much of the year and at the end of each season we look again to our quality of life goals: time for fun, time for creativity, time for exploration and learning and leisure with family and friends.
These goals are a reason I started this blog. I do it because it’s fun, because it stretches my writing muscles, and keeps me writing on a regular basis. I do it because it connects me to this community of fellow gardeners and farmers, all working to grow a deeper life, seed by seed.
It’s another way of making sure I never lose the time to do what I enjoy. And hopefully, it adds a bit of enjoyment for all who read, too.
Even though I’m not eating tomatoes this summer, the act of cooking remains a steady counterpart to the work of farming.
Now I’d love to know, what brings you joy? What are the things make time for, the things you never want to let go of?
Is it making homemade tomato sauce? Or taking photos? Or reading books? Whatever it is, leave a comment below and let me know.
And better yet, let me know how you make it happen (because despite my efforts, there are still the inevitable days when I don’t make the time and dinner is less than inspired. Suggestions & strategies welcome.)