Friday, August 11, 2006

The love apple, Southern style

Today our good friend Og the wise and powerful talks about the glory of the summer season and the only two things that money can't buy, that being, of course, true love and homegrown tomatoes.

I've been fortunate enough to have some of both and especially on one memorable summer day where I really hit the jackpot.

I was still being the Southern expatriate in New York and was coming home to visit family . . . and the Love of My Life was also to home. And when I told him when I was coming in to Hartsfield he said, "Let me pick you up at the airport. I'll have you paged when I get there."

And so he did. Delta said, "Please meet your party outside by the taxi stand."

I stepped out into the late summer swelter to find not a taxi but a motorhome pulling up to the curb and the Love Of My Life behind the wheel.

He was wearing a big smile . . . and nothing else. Oh, and I could tell he was very glad to see me.

I climbed aboard the motorhome and dazedly took a seat. He asked me about my trip as he pulled away from the curb and towards the exit. Turned out he had a ticket for the parking garage that he had to pay first, so we navigated over there. He was chatting like he always does when fully dressed, like being completely nekkid was not an issue. When we pulled up to the cashier he handed her the ticket and the money and they exchanged words and money like she was not dealing with a man who was without a stitch of clothing. He wished her a blessed day and we drove away from the airport.

He said, "Got something for you in the kitchen; I knew you'd be hungry." In the kitchen area was a table set for one with a tall glass of iced tea and a sandwich, a true Southern-style delight: The boy had taken two slices of fresh soft white bread and spread them liberally with mayonnaise (the real thing; none of this salad dressing or low-fat nonsense) and thin slice upon thin slice of fully ripe beefsteak tomato. Salt and pepper were the only accessory items which is as it should be with a properly made tomato sammich.

I dealt with my lunch first; tomato sandwiches have a very short life. Once fortified, I then tackled the greater issue of what do you do with a naked RV driver.

In all my romantic misadventures this takes the prize for surreal . . . and for delicious.

This weekend I hope to be shopping at the farmers' market, or I'll look for a farm stand, someone with a truck and bushel baskets by the side of the road. I'll look for some beefsteaks, not the pretty ones but the gnarly heirloom ones, the big red softballs that twist around the sweet vines. A loaf of fresh white bread (here, Colonial is the best for this purpose), a jar of Hellmans, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper and you got yourself the joy of the season on a plate. I will definitely have one; I may have two.

The Love of My Life sold his motorhome a few years ago and now he loves another. But his gift and that day is with me still, my most unforgettable Southern Man. Thank you, dear heart.