The best tomato sandwich

Late May makes me smile. The local gardeners pop their tents on highly trafficked Tallapoosa and Elmore county corners. Piles of squash, zucchini and, of course, heaps of homegrown tomatoes are spread out on white plastic fold-out tables. Hand-painted signs adorn the sides of the road that read tomato and boiled peanuts

Like nail polishes and great sports cars, tomatoes come in a wide variety of colors with exciting names. Did you know that, in addition to red, tomatoes could be green, orange, pink, purple, striped, white or yellow? 

I wrote about tomatoes during my time at Wickles Pickles and the great Waverly Tomato Showdown many times. I have tasted many delicious tomatoes and grown my own – the kind that it takes two hands to hold. 

I am comfortable declaring that my favorite varietal is the purple (black) tomato. The juicy flesh is more like fruit or steak than vegetable, and I am well aware that a tomato is scientifically a fruit. Slicing into the tomato is like running a sharp knife through a filet mignon that has been cooked to perfection.

Black Beauty, Black Icicle, Black Krim*, Cherokee Purple*, Rosella, Thorburn’s Terra-Cotta, True Black Brandywine, Violet Jasper all sound like they could be racehorses or Grateful Dead songs.

As I wax poetic, my point is, if you happen upon a purpley–red, veiny–black tomato, do buy it. Then go straight home and make the best tomato sandwich you have ever had in your life.

The BTS is a process, and everyone has an opinion. Since this is my column, I’ll unabashedly share mine. 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and put your cast iron skillet in, with a pad of real butter. The skillet will be the bacon’s spot to slow cook.

White bread beats wheat bread in the BTS race, and I like to go classic Sunbeam. The bread should stick to the roof of your mouth; that’s the point. I usually like my sandwiches toasted, but during tomato season, I want to keep them fresh. 

Slice your tomato into fat slices, at least 2 centimeters thick. Then add two thick, juicy tomato slices to one side of the bread.

Next, we must talk about mayonnaise and bacon. I could write two separate articles on those items, but seriously, the BTS is not the time for diet light food. Do not cheat yourself here – just make plans to walk an extra mile. I insist upon regular Duke’s mayonnaise, but Blue Plate is tasty, too. It takes at least 1.5 tablespoons of mayo to do the sandwich justice, so apply heartily; and then, lick your butter knife.

Next, salt and pepper both the mayonnaise side of the sandwich and the tomato side.

The bacon should be almost done – done being a figurative word. I prefer my bacon slightly chewy. I also like the good, thick bacon, and I prefer Alabama brands like Conecuh and Zeigler meats. Both are great. 

Side note: I think the smell of bacon beats any high fa-lootin’ candle out there. 

Now, add at least two bacon pieces by laddering them onto the tomato. Grab a leaf of iceberg lettuce, add it to the sandwich or just lay it on the side to nibble on with a few Wickles Pickles and a crown of raw white onion.

With a final flourish, stack the mayo-sided piece of bread on the stack of deliciousness – hold it with both hands – and dive into the BTS. 

May the tomato juice forever run down your forearms and don’t forget tofollow Waverly Tomato Showdown on Facebook for details on this summer’s event.

Lacey Howell is a recovering English major from Auburn who now lives on Lake Martin, sells real estate, rides horses and loves good wine. Follow her on Instagram @LaceyHowell and her Facebook page.