harriet the spy tomato sandwich

I am full of food memories from scenes of people eating and drinking in films and on TV. There is something about seeing and hearing food that just makes you want to eat it, a phenomenon most obviously exploited by the Food Network and its most recent iteration, Cooking Channel. FoodPornDaily appeals to that voyeur in all of us.* But in these instances, food doesn’t necessarily have a story beyond horrible vignettes from the life of Sandra Lee (e.g., “Those fondant covered marshmallows were just darling for my niece’s birthday party.”) With film and television, characters contextualize then food and show us a real person eating a real meal for a real reason. I want to eat those same meals, and I will do so here.

When I was 7 or 8, I discovered Harriet the Spy. What a movie! What a book! After seeing it, I tried as hard as I could to become Harriet, even asking Santa Claus for a spy kit and a full-time nanny (even though I had/have a perfectly good mom). The nanny never came, but I got a deluxe spy kit, complete with mirrored spy glasses and chalk dust for fingerprinting. (Come to think of it, I wonder if my desire to be a successful childhood spy has anything to do with my embarrassing obsessions with crime shows like CSI: Miami and Law and Order: SVU. I’d say it’s likely.)

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Anyway, one of the most memorable scenes of this film was the process of Harriet making a tomato sandwich. The entire thing lasted approximately 73 seconds, but the novelty of a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich on white bread struck me. My school lunches up until that point had been prepared with something from my grandparents Italian deli, and white bread was never an option. Only “Dr. John bread,” as my mom would call it: whole wheat, just as my pediatrician ordered. So this evening, with only the heel of my “Dr. John bread” remaining and an heirloom tomato begging to be consumed, I had a tomato sandwich with mayo.

I have always been a lover of the tomato seed juice that tends to squirt out of tomatoes. Many people get rid of it before eating their tomato, including Harriet, but I found that it combined with the mayo was pure succulence. Both seeped into the toasted heel of bread, and few things are better than when toast begins to reconstitute its moisture with other flavors: balsamic vinegar, marmalade, butter, and in this case, tomato seed juice (does this have a real name?) and mayonnaise.

I’m not the only one to feel nostalgic about this sandwich; a quick Google search led me to this Epicurious blog entry and a host of other recollections and recipes, so at least I know I’m not a crazy person who remembers a tomato sandwich from some flick she saw in first grade.

*Bragging rights: A picture from the sandwich post on Best I Ever Had was featured on FoodPornDaily. I nearly cried with excitement when I found out, and I was obvs so proud of photographer Scott. Funnily enough, the featured sandwich also had heirloom tomatoes, but that’s actually not funny at all because a consistently-fruiting heirloom tomato plant is one of my desert island items. I lub dem.

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