It is a cool, soft rain day here in the Garden. I woke up to that gentle pitter-patter that said ‘get the hell up NOW! and get all those plants out of the greenhouse and off the addition (Greenhouse Annex) so they can enjoy the rain. So I did, slithering around in my polkadot robe (really, I didn’t even take time to dress!) – it’s 64F (heading up to 70F) at 8a, as I write this, and these are all outdoor plants that are beginning the hardening-off stages, so it’s a perfect day.
Salvia, kale, collards, ornamental cabbages… the dahlias that my sweet young friend overwintered in their pots! on her south-facing-but unheated- enclosed porch (that was a shocker – and the fact that even bone-dry, as the sun hit them, they began to leaf out! waaaa??? ) Peppers. Basil.
And then the tomatoes. And with that, a flood of memories.
Now… here’s the thing: Even though I grow them, in their natural state I don’t love tomatoes all that much. But there’s something about tomato leaf… I wonder if everyone who’s ever brushed a tomato leaf (even if only at the grocery store) experiences some race-memory from it? I don’t remember any IRL association to that smell, though my mother was an avid gardener and loved tomatoes. My grandmother & aunt were both fashion plates who would no more dig a hole in the dirt than they would go barefoot – so there’s no ‘Nana in the kitchen’ memory.
But… omg. Such a flood of memories – but here’s the thing: none of them were actually associated with tomatoes! Not like CBIHatePerfume’s thought behind Memory of Kindness. … but memory, just the same. I wondered if there is something, some enzyme? in the tomato leaf itself that triggers memory – and so I went a-Googling (but not for too long, as I still have stuff to get outside – this soft rain really is stunningly perfect) – I came upon this post from Garden Betty (one of my favorite science-y garden/food writers ), wherein she talks about the whys of tomato-leaf smell. And that led to a link to another blog post about using tomato leaves in tomato sauce – but you’ll have to read the linked post to find it because I’m Just That Mean 😉
Anyhoo – what I find intriguing about tomato leaves triggering memory is that every time I handle them it triggers a new memory! The first time I moved the tomatoes into the greenhouse it triggered a memory of my mother baking my birthday cake – always chocolate and, because it was the 60s, always from a box. It wasn’t the ‘day of’ memory; no, it was the ‘usually the day after’, when she would cut a slice, wrap it in waxed paper and put it in my lunchbox. The faint, fabulously chemical tang of the chocolate frosting, as I scraped it off the waxed paper! The anticipation of that from the first class with the BVM nuns glaring at us (ugh. BVM nuns. What a terrifying Order.)… the thrill of self-discipline, eating my sandwich first, so as to prolong the anticipation…
Today’s memory, however, isn’t even a memory – it’s a pastiche of sorts, combining a made-up memory, a love of St John suits (which I cannot wear) and Stephen Sondheim (I love Donna Murphy’s rendition of his marvelous ‘Could I Leave You?’ for Sondheim’s 80th – and OMG. You want terror? Watch Carol Burnett sing it. I swear, comedians are the scariest people in the world.) The memory-idea conjured Amouage Beloved, which I love unreservedly but also reserve for mizzling, melancholy days. A woman, at lunch with her Ladies Who Lunch, in her pearls and pink St John suit , wondering why her life is so…. lifeless… but also capable of So. Much. Love. I love Beloved beyond all loving. Weird.. but true. It breaks, yet lightens, my heart, which is the genius of that perfume. And it’s the genius of Sondheim who, while not a BVM, is still pretty terrifying. Every one of his songs rips my soul to shreds. I wonder what he’d make of Beloved. Or tomato leaf?
How do you feel about tomato leaf? Love it or hate it? Does it trigger memory for you?
and….do any of you want to come help me get all this stuff back in the greenhouse?