The Best Tomato Sandwich


Tomato Sandwich

It is almost time to leave.

Early Girl Tomatoes

“The sun crept down toward its setting place behind the Salinas River, and a bird began to sing wonderfully from the golden stubble of the field. It was as beautiful under the branches of the willow tree as anything in the world can be.”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Ripe Early Girl Tomatoes


I want to record a memory. Make a commitment not to forget. Let the time and place etch the grooves of the LP. It is a melancholy song I can’t chase away. The tune replays. It settles in, lingers, and yet I know there will be new words and music. Selfishly I write for myself.

Down Alameda, across Romie my eyes travel from a pit of despair. I look up and search the golden hills of the Santa Lucia’s. I find Mt. Toro. Caught in a whirlwind of emotion the soft golden hills are calming. I am standing on solid ground again. Oak trees hover below the peaks. In the afternoon light they are black but I know they really are green and brown. I inspect the glass pane of the window. It is old, I wonder if it has altered the colors I am seeing. Soon I will not come to this room on the second floor. I will not walk up the stairs, open the door at the top of the stairs and walk to the end of the hall. I will forget the window and the sight of the golden hills. She will not always be here.

My heart has soaked up so much misery I can feel the new weight. My chest heaves in acknowledgment. I know if I am not careful the dull ache will grow heavy and sharp. This has happened before. I have selfish thoughts and find myself a child again. I want to be jealous. There is a comfort in familiar patterns. She wakes up and responds to my brothers, The Twins. Even mumbles a few words. She looks at me and closes her eyes again. They need more from her now. I always say they are her favorites but I know they have always needed more. She will not always be here.

Live Earth Farm

It has been a warm summer. I want to remember that the fog vanished by mid-day. That I wore sandals and sunglasses and left my sweater at home. That even with a heavy heart kindness and compassion grew in abundance. That my summer was consumed with this and still I planted herbs and sunflowers and picked tomatoes, strawberries and apples. She will not always be here. It is almost time to leave.


Just outside Watsonville, at Live Earth Farm we picked dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes. The tomatoes were so spectacular we went picking a second time. I heaped all this intense flavor of summer into salads, tarts and pasta. Then I decided to make one of my mom’s favorite summer treats. Simple, a wonder of seasonal flavor and there is no cooking involved. Unless, you are your mother’s daughter and stubbornly insist on making your own bread. This recipe makes a fabulous sandwich bread but 2 tablespoons of salt for one loaf must be a typo. I suggest using 2 teaspoons of fine grain sea salt instead.

My mom was born and raised in southern California but her roots stretched deeply into the mid-west. She was more of an Iowa farm girl that loved California for the beach and almost year-round sunshine. One of my mom’s favorite sandwiches was juicy summer tomatoes, lots of mayonnaise and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Nestled between two thick slices of good white sandwich bread or sliced sourdough this sandwich reminds me of her and warm summer afternoons. Yes, you can add lettuce and bacon and even avocado. But then it wouldn’t be a tomato sandwich which really is worth enjoying before the last gasp of summer.

2 slices of sandwich bread
2T mayonnaise
2-3 dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes or other ripe summer tomatoes
  1. Slather both pieces of sandwich bread with generously with mayonnaise.
  2. Thickly slice the tomatoes. Place a layer of tomato slices on top of one slice of mayonnaise covered bread. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper and top the tomatoes with the second slice of bread.
  3. Cut the sandwich in half and serve with a large napkin.

Best Tomato Sandwich

Early Girl Tomatoes

My mom, Barbara Boyens, has left us. She lives in my memories and will always be part of me. She taught me so much, the joy of creating with my hands, the gift of color, the delight of a simple adventure. Her generous spirit was paired with an unparalleled stubbornness and endless creative energy that will always set an example of a life well lived.

This entry was posted in Baking, Breads: Quick & Yeasted, Vegetables and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to The Best Tomato Sandwich

  1. Early Girls are my favorite, and I am also gorging on these beauties until the summer sun sets. I think I am going to make myself a sandwich now…

  2. and I clicked post before I had a chance to also say I am so sorry for your loss. xo

  3. Carol Sacks says:

    What a post, dear Deb. Thinking of you and yours; sending peaceful and healing energy.

  4. Gerlinde says:

    Hi Debbie ,
    I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother. These are hard times for you and I hope that you find a way to heal yourself. Maybe using your gift of writing and creating beautiful images with the camera and the pen will help. This post is touching, it expresses the emotions of loosing a parent in a beautiful manner.
    A big hug

  5. Oh dear Deb – what a beautifully written and beautifully touching post. So honest and so lovely and real. I am so very sorry for your loss. My dad, who is 87, had a bit of a health scare recently and the reality of what lays ahead at some point became all too real. He is on the mend but as you said, he will not always be here.

    It is the simple foods that are always the most soothing and memorable. May you continue to enjoy the memories and find comfort in the color, creativity, and beauty of what you cook.

  6. Cathy says:

    How sad for you to have lost your dear Mum. My sympathy to you. Your post was so moving – so beautifully written – and the subject such a simple one but also such a comforting one.

  7. I’m so sorry for your loss. Only time can heal such sadness, but nice memories and comfort food surely help along the way.

  8. So sorry for your loss, but what a beautifully written commemoration to her. I love the simplicity of the sandwich, it looks great. Sometimes the simple things bring us ‘back to center’. Big hug.

  9. This post brought me to tears, what a thoughtful tribute to your mom. I’m so, so sorry – I know that words are not enough, but I am praying for you.

    Your sandwich looks exquisite, the perfect end of summer treat!

  10. Sue says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss, I lost my mother when I was 22 after she had been ill for five years. I don’t have such poignant memories as what you’ve shared but her voice is in my ear whenever I purchase oranges and lemons. She told me to always buy heavy thin skinned fruit, a small thing but a wonderful connection.

    I’m sure many times in the coming years, wonderful memories of your mother will comfort you, in the kitchen, in the garden, and sometimes when you least expect it.

    • Deb says:

      Losing your mother when you were so young must have been very difficult. My mom lived a long and full life and I was fortunate to be able to spend time with her as a adult. Even so, she was so much a part of my life there is a huge empty spot in my heart that will gently fill with sweet memories. Thank you for sharing your kind thought Sue!

  11. The simplest things are the best… just like this tomato sandwich!!!

  12. When you come across perfect tomatoes a simple tomato sandwich is the best way to eat them…. And I am so sorry for your loss. My mother died as a result of a car accident 11 years ago (not quite 60) and the ache, while still here and twingeing painfully at times, will lessen and you will be able to enjoy happy memories that will pop unbidden into your mind. Sometimes you will cry for ‘no reason’ and think slightly irrational thoughts, but it is all on the broad spectrum of normal and understandable grief. You will get there, and that raw grief will soften into fond memories.

    • Deb says:

      Kellie thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me. Your words have softened the brittle edges of my day. The unexpected loss of your mother is heart breaking. Grief descends like ferocious storm that must be lived. When the storm ends there will be clouds and sun drenched memories.

  13. Oh my Deb, I am so sorry. Your words, so articulate and revealing, allow us a glimpse into your loss and sadness. My mom lives hundreds of miles from me and just tonight I returned from spending a week with her. Although I see her every few months, there was something different this trip. Nearly 86 years old, I was unusually pre-occupied with wondering how many more ‘visits’ we will enjoy together. My heart was already heavy this evening when I read your post. I wish I had words as beautiful as yours above that could comfort you in some way. Please know that I am thinking of you often.

    • Deb says:

      Mary thank you so much for your kind and generous words! You have warmed the ache in my heart. I’m delighted to hear that you and your mom have had a great time together this summer!

  14. shannon says:

    So sorry to hear about your mother, Deb; my thoughts are with you, and will be in the weeks to come. Everything about this post was just so beautiful; so lovingly written and such a tribute to her.

  15. Oh my – so sorry for your loss! My mom was just here for a visit, and I did make a very conscious effort to treasure each day – ’cause they may never be repeated.

    This sandwich actually makes me think of my mom too – she always made them exactly this way for us. We have tons of tomatoes streaming from the garden right now, and I have a tomato sandwich nearly every day, till they are all gone.

    thanks for the beautiful post

  16. Jacquee says:

    What a beautiful post (and sandwich). So sorry to learn of your loss. xx

  17. Valentina says:

    I am truly sorry for your loss, Deb. I can only imagine how hard it is. I hope writing and cooking will help you heal — you do both so beautifully.

  18. Fresh, ripe tomatoes are such a gift, aren’t they? This is as beautifully simple as it gets — and yet nothing is missing! Thanks for sharing, Deb.

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