As tomato season approaches you get yourself prepared – jars washed, lids at the ready, canning pots pulled out of storage, playlist of inspiring music made. Somewhere in the back of your deepest recessed memories something is tugging, trying to remind you that this experience is unpleasant. You ignore it. After all, we're talking about tomatoes – we've waited and waited for them to arrive. And the day finally does. The first tomato.
It all comes rushing back in a horrible wave of remembrance. Wait! This is extremely unpleasant. I'm not sure I want to do this anymore. What have I gotten myself into? But by now the tomatoes are coming in faster than you can say "barbecue sauce". The sink and counters are overflowing, the slightly under-ripe ones are lined up on the window sill, there's a bushel basket in the corner of the kitchen and you know if you don't get to this soon there will be a fruit fly problem of epic proportions. You give yourself a little pep talk – 'You're in for the long haul missy so you'd better just get to it'. You take a deep cleansing breath and start your mantra 'I can do this'. Your lovely play list of music is on in the background. You remind yourself how wonderful it will be to have canned tomatoes when you're all done. You're focused like nobody's business. All goes smoothly.
Until it doesn't. After a few hours it all starts to wear on you. At one point you start to curse your husband (he once told you that your salsa was nice) and you know for certain that this is all his fault and what's more, you swear that this is the last time – absolutely The. Last. Time. – you are ever going to do this again so he had better get any more ideas of bolognese sauce right out of his mind, we are now a tomato-free family, and for heaven's sake would someone turn that annoying music off? You calm yourself down. You re-focus. You remember to breathe (breathing is important). You get through what seems like fourteen days but really is only a few more hours.
You start to wonder if it will ever end. Every time you turn around there are more tomatoes. Where are they all coming from? Really, where? You're tired, your feet hurt, your hair is a frizzled-frazzled mess, and there's sweat running down your back (why must tomato season coincide with a heat wave every single time?). You think you just might cry. Or quit. Or both. More hours, more tomatoes. You're exhausted. You're hungry. You wonder for the hundredth time if it's worth it. You decide that dinner tonight will be take-out food – something with no tomatoes in it.
And then, just like that, they're all done. Every last tomato. You can't believe it! You wipe the jars clean. You know that you should go put your feet up now and rest but you just can't. Instead you stand there, admiring your neat rows of beautiful canned tomatoes. You smile at them. You lovingly touch them. You think about the days ahead and all the things you'll do together – about marinara sauce and chili and soup. You take a picture or two and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Give it a couple of weeks and you'll have forgotten all about the pain of canning day. Come January you'll be looking through seed catalogues and picking out way too many tomato varieties. In March you can be found excitedly (yes, excitedly) planting the seeds in little pots and anxiously awaiting the day you will transfer them to your garden. By August? By August there will once again be something tugging in the back of your mind warning you not to go there again. But you'll ignore it. You will go there again. Because it's totally worth it.