Mary, Vermont-born and raised, can see for miles from her mountaintop cabin. Most of her high school friends moved to nearby states and their concurrent big cities, but she notices some friends and neighbors are comin’ home again.
When she meets Josh after a hiatus of several years, he is walking the same country road—the fourth-class, dirt road that forks near Mary’s small house where she has lived all her life. He’s come to visit his Grandmother for perhaps her last Mother’s Day.
“Oh my. Look who’s come t'natter!” says Mary, flinging back a lock of straight bobbed hair that has fallen over one eye. She’s kneeling, wearing a vintage-faded, plaid apron and digging out a root of wild ginger from a large patch growing in a ditch along the road.
“Mary!” cries Josh. “You look great. Haven’t changed a bit.”
“Yep, I’m Mary, a tomato, born and raised. Plain but juicy. Honest too, and I can stand the heat,” she says as she carefully shakes away dirt from a fragile root-tail.
She places the broad, heart-shaped leaf and its pale string-to-life alongside the rest of its delicate family, that lay nesting in her flat basket. A few florets look strangely at her, like baby-birds in pink bonnets, mouths gaping for food.
“Come back around August and you’ll see my real tomatoes,” she adds.
Josh flicks his tongue against his palate, turns his head from side to side. “Mary, just like your old man, rascally,” he says and with the tip of his slip-on boot he kicks up a little dust.
“You’re such a good boy, Josh. Come to see your grannie? She’s been doin pretty OK. Once in awhile I have to bring her mail.”
Mary and Josh are both chefs. He now in a New York City upscale restaurant and she as always canning and jamming at home. They are yin and yang culinarians and though neither studies traditional Chinese medicine, they are natural complementary counterparts.
Their relationship to Vermont also has two perspectives. Mary is the loyal sort, loving her Vermont despite its often-cruel climate, it’s tough topography, and its seasonally economic hardship.
Josh agrees it’s a land of polarities with hidden pockets of intellect, dry humor, beauty and beast. It’s always been on-edge and that drama draws his return. But his parents preferred an easier stride and when he was an infant they moved to Sante Fe, New Mexico.
Linda and Ted, having had a few cooking show ideas and having met both Mary and Josh, dream up a show that especially highlights Josh and Mary's two different cooking perspectives—country versus cosmopolitan.
There're always two recipes that use basically the same ingredients though the equipment and techniques between the two may differ. Mary has a rural tomato while Josh has an urban tomahto, yet the creations from either point of view taste equally delightful.
Mary in her wire-rim specs would say, “My mother taught me how to pickle and preserve the food my father grew.” She’s not quite the Merle Haggard type, but should she wear her vintage plaid apron or trendy buffalo plaid? Well, if buffalo-plaid—hers would be of worn wool, handed down from her grannie, the perfect pragmatic compromise.
Chef Josh, wearing a black turtleneck and leather-belted trousers, is a sophisticated, friendly guy who not only knows how to cook but he pairs wine with what he serves.
His more studied cuisine is concerned with food as seduction not only through taste, but also through aroma, appearance, authentication, and antithesis.
“Hello, I’m Chef Josh, the tomahto. I am a seasoned chef and restaurateur, and together with Mary, we want to show you today how to prepare two different versions of root vegetables.”
His nature is to exaggerate. “My mother was such a bad cook I thought airplane food was delicious!”
Mary prepares a vegetable potpie that looks and tastes delicious. Basic, straightforward cooking created with simple ingredients, a knife, and a rolling pin.
Josh combines physics and physiology, taking advantage of the gastronomic and scientific knowledge so au courant. His result is a sublime mouth sensation, an artistic tour de force with layers of worldly and lingering flavor.
The audience taste-tests but there is never a winner, just political palates where The People take sides.
Tomato-Tomahto’s mission is to educate viewers about respective preparations and the history of foods and culture. It’s to show that conflict need not exist between two points of view, but rather that different perspectives can often complement one another.
In a relationship being complementary is important because one or the other of you can pick up the slack. It works well even if you are in the same workplace together—though we know not all aspects of work can be so simply alternated.
Here, high up at the Back of the Moon, and with conditions permitting, we are fortunate to use a lagoon of sorts as a cross-country ski track. We take advantage of being able to ski right from our house onto our magic pond, and when time permits onto neighboring snowmobile or even groomed trails.
Sometimes after the two of us have had a few revolutions around the magic pond, one of us will say to the other, “How many more do you want to do?” or “How much longer?”
Invariably the other answers, “Let’s go for another!” or “A few more!”
The convenience of companion-as-coach gives the ole push-on, taking the lead to stretch our limits. This role is often switched between us as our bodies react differently on different days. We sense and nudge each other as needed.
It’s undefined in the moment, but the subtext is a kindly shove. It’s a way of giving back. It helps one another achieve goals and sets a higher bar.
If you and your mate have disparate incidents, we hope you see the glass half-full and don’t spill it out as half-empty. It’s in your hands and you may find that sometimes what matters is simply your point of view.
Occasionally being pragmatic isn’t a bad thing. It shouldn’t cover all aspects of life, but it can lead us through some mountain tunnels. If your ideology is black and your partner’s is white there is no all-grey cure-all, but understanding each other is a step in the right direction. You can then live in relationship to one another. Pragmatism will only matter when it matters!
MUSIC TO COOK BY
Our theme song to the Tomato-Tomahto show is, of course, Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger’s, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” The Gershwin brothers wrote this for the 1937 film, Shall We Dance, in which this dynamic song and dance duo starred.
NOT ONE, NOT TWO, BUT 3 RECIPES!
Tomato Recipe 1
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed whole
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbs. fresh sage, chopped
2 zucchini, medium size, cut into 1/4 inch slices, stem end removed
1 tbs. salt
3-5 fresh tomatoes
1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 tbs. chopped red onion
6 basil leaves, medium size, rough chopped
1/2 c. arugula
Place half the oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and sage in a small bowl for ten minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the zucchini and brush the slices with this marinated oil. Salt, and then sauté slices for about five minutes on each side or until cooked.
While the zucchini is cooking cut the tomatoes into one-inch chunks and place in a bowl with half the remaining oil, the vinegar, some salt, and the red onion. Allow to marinate.
When the zucchini is cooked, arrange the slices across the center of a plate and mound with tomato chunks.
Toss the arugula with the remaining oil and salt and place on top of the tomatoes.
Sprinkle chopped basil around the plate.
Tomahto Recipe 2
4-5 zucchini, whole, medium to large
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1/4 c. fresh fennel, quarter-inch cubes
1/4 c. onion, chopped
2 oz. olive oil
1/2 c. zucchini, quarter-inch cubes
1/2 c. eggplant, quarter-inch cubes
1/2 c. fresh mushroom, quarter-inch cubes
1/4 tsp. garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 tsp. fresh mint, chopped
1/2 c. tapenade or almost pureed French black olives with herbs
salt & pepper to taste
1 c. couscous
1 1/4 c. hot water
Slice the whole zucchini lengthwise into quarter-inch slices, coat with vegetable oil, and grill for 30 seconds on each side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Place couscous in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt. Cover with water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. After 10 minutes uncover and fluff with a fork.
In medium size frying pan over medium heat sauté the fennel and onion olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the cubed zucchini, eggplant, mushroom and garlic. Continue to sauté for another 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked but still firm. Add thyme, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Place in a bowl and toss gently. Combine vegetables with couscous.
Brush the insides of four 5-6oz. ramekins with oil then line them with three to six grilled zucchini slices, leaving the ends hanging over the sides.
Divide the vegetable-couscous mixture and spoon into the zucchini lined molds. Pack tightly with the bottom of the spoon. Fold over the ends to make a package and pack down again. Place in a water bath and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Turn over each timbale and un-mold onto a plate for service. Form a small ball with the tapenade and place on top of each timbale. Serve with truffle vinaigrette.
Note: Timbales can be made up to 24 hours ahead. Reheat in water bath in low oven.
3 tbs. fresh shallot, diced small
1/2 c. fresh tomato, diced small
1/4 c. white balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. Champagne vinegar
1 3/4 c. olive oil blend
2 tbs. truffle oil
1 tbs. black truffle, chopped