Daddy’s Tomato Garden

Foodie Friday

Jun 24, 2011 by

My father spent most of World War II on Attu, a frozen, treeless dot in the northern Pacific at the end of the Aleutian Chain. Although he spoke little of the experience of flying bombing missions over Japan, Daddy often reminisced about the weather.  It is estimated that there are 8-10 precipitation-free days a year on the island, all of them cold!

Our treasured black and white photos show Daddy in front of his plane, smiling and bundled against the snow…always snow.

Three years on Attu gave my father a passion for green and growing things.  He loved mowing the lawn and puttering in his garden!  When I was just six, we moved to a small town outside Cleveland.

Our tiny home had a huge yard, the back third of which quickly became Daddy’s garden. Daddy’s dedication and natural green thumb (which I did NOT inherit) were amplified by the fact that our garden had been a chicken run for fifty years before being turned over to post-war, baby boom housing.

I vividly remember going to the nursery that first summer to buy bedding plants and seeds.  Although he would prove to have talent, Daddy had no experience in gardening.  The nurseryman saw him coming! When told that we loved tomatoes, they promptly sold him seventy-two tomato plants!

This in a small semi-rural community in which EVERYBODY had a garden! There was no way we could even give away the bounty. My brother and I grew up eating tomatoes the way other kids ate apples.  Mother spent the entire summer canning, and we ate spaghetti all winter!

Daddy’s love for tomatoes never diminished.  When I was first married, my parents had a home in Connecticut, again with a large yard, the rear third of which would be Daddy’s garden. This time, the garden ran part way up the slope of a hill. The meadow above had been a cow pasture for 300 years.  Again, Daddy wallowed in the richest soil imaginable.

Our tastes had matured as well.  In those days the greatest treat was to pick sun-warmed tomatoes, red, yellow, orange and heirloom varieties just before dinner, put them through the Italian tomato press with the wonderful multi-syllabic name spremipomodori and turn them into the best Bloody Mary ever tasted!

I still use tomatoes in every way possible. The following makes a great, colorful summer side dish.

Broiled Tomatoes Italian-style

Before you begin

Pre-heat your broiler


One large, ripe tomato per person (beefsteaks are great, but any tasty, vine-ripened tomato will do)

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

Seasoned bread crumbs (Progresso Italian style are my favorite)

Grated mozzarella or parmesan


Slice the tomatoes to approximately ½ inch thick. If the tomatoes are too firm, microwave them for a minute or so to soften them.

Brush lightly with olive oil

Sprinkle with salt and pepper

Sprinkle heavily with the seasoned bread crumbs

Top with grated cheese

Slide the tomatoes under the broiler and broil for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese topping gets wonderfully crusty and brown.

Be sure to have extra napkins on hand!

About the Author

Tani Wolff Has Written 17 Articles For Us!

I also write for a college admissions blog and create marketing materials. However, my true passion is preparing articles about Opera Theatre of Saint Louis’ upcoming festival season. I spend eight to ten months each year researching the composers, librettists, time periods and performance records of our productions (as well as the music) to put together pieces that will enhance the enjoyment of our fabulous and devoted patron community. It is truly a labor of love.
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