Fried green tomatoes are kind of weird. You either like them or you don’t. I’m on the like side of things, because I like their salty tartness, those thin slices with the texture of fresh tomatoes but with the bite of something else, coated in spicy crunch, and fried up in butter. Everything crunchy and fried in butter is worth a try. You know I’m right.
And as it happens, today is the anniversary of the passing of my awesome Grandpa, who also liked fried green tomatoes. And he had excellent taste. That today was the day I decided to make the tomatoes worked out strangely – a coincidence, to be sure. But I’m reading The Jade Peony at the moment, and it’s full of dead grandparent mysticism, and it’s making me paranoid that this was a sign, and now I’m kind of embarrassed that I didn’t wear underwear to work today. It’s laundry day. By which I mean, we have to do laundry because I officially ran out of clean underwear. I can’t be experiencing Grandpa-related coincidences on a day when I am all out of underwear. My grandpa would never run out of clean underwear.
My mom, upon alerting me to this coincidence, if this counts as one of those, told me that I should simply fry them in butter and sprinkle them with seasoning salt, which is how Grandpa did it. Seasoning salt is one of those strange things I can’t bring myself to use, because … well, why is it orange? What are those black things? I don’t know. I’m a salt snob. And, besides, I like my spices. My grandma, Cuddles, who I’ve mentioned before, would sneak spices into things and my grandpa would eat them, delighted. He didn’t know what they were. Better not to tell him, she thought.
Though he did eat around, and had a fondness for all kinds of tastes, particularly sweet tastes. He would buy boxes of seconds from the chocolate factory, and would hide them all over the house, so that wherever he passed by, a treat would be within reach. During business hours, he would apparently do lunch right around my neighbourhood – I didn’t realize this, but the company he worked for for years and years used to be located just a block or two down from where I live now. The little Chinese restaurant where my grandpa and his friends would go for lunch and eat so much he’d be too full for dinner? Probably the one I like to go to for lunch sometimes and eat too much at. It’s very reasonably priced, you know, and it’s been there for eons.
Oddly, my last apartment was right around the corner from my grandparents’ first house, or at least the one where my mom spent her formative years. Coincidences. Or, perhaps a weird kind of parallelism, or I’m reading too much into things. I never find out about these things until after I’ve settled on a place, or a thing. And I don’t look too hard for things like signs. It’s probably just that I am predisposed to good ideas. Yes. That must be it. Heredity. Green tomatoes.
Fried Green Tomatoes
(Serves four as a side dish.)
- Two or three large green tomatoes (make sure they’re very firm)
- 1 cup cornmeal (the finer the grind, the better)
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. white pepper (black is fine too)
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- Salt, to taste
- Two large eggs, beaten’
- 1/4 cup of butter, melted
Slice the tomatoes into rounds about half an inch thick.
In a large pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
Combine the cornmeal with the spices. Dip each slice into the beaten eggs, and then dredge in the spicy cornmeal. Place into the pan of butter, and fry, two minutes per side, until the tomatoes are soft, about the texture of a ripe red tomato, and the crust is golden and crisp.
You may have to fry your tomatoes in two batches, like I did. In that case, feel free to refresh with more butter. More butter. Have two more perfect words ever been uttered together, or typed side-by-side? I don’t think so.
When the tomatoes are done, move them onto a plate covered in paper towels, and salt immediately, while still very hot. Serve right away.
And eat a box of very good chocolate in your favourite chair afterwards, for dessert.