Tomato Sandwich Freedom Day
“Hurry up, Joe, and pass the mayonnaise.”
“Don’t get your boxers in a bundle, Art,” I say. “I’m gonna enjoy these tomato sandwiches, and I don’t mean to be rushed.”
Art’s wife, Patricia, and my wife, Barb, are best friends, and the four of us have been going to the Gulf Coast together for years. We probably ought to have our heads examined for always going the week before the Fourth of July. It’s crowded, it’s hot, it’s expensive—and we couldn’t stop now if we tried.
Today’s the day Patricia and Barb have gone to the outlet mall an hour away, or as Art and I like to think of it, Tomato Sandwich Freedom Day.
Art and I love good old-fashioned tomato sandwiches, but unfortunately, we are both married to health fanatics. Barb would bring anthrax into our house before she’d permit a loaf of white bread to enter. So most of the year, I eat that wretched brown stuff she buys in the organic section at the grocery store. My cholesterol’s down, and the doctor’s happy I’ve lost ten pounds, but he’d lose weight, too, if his wife made him eat bread with sand and dirt in it.
Patricia’s even worse. That woman can tell you the calorie, sodium, and carb count of every bite of food she puts in her mouth, and she rides Art’s case all the time. Art’s about twenty pounds overweight thanks to those all-you-can-eat buffet lunches he has about three or four times a week, but if I had to live like that, I’d probably be a regular at Golden Corral, too.
Today, however, Art and I are two free men, and we’ve just gotten back from Winn-Dixie where we stocked up on provisions before the gals return.
We do this every year at the beach, and the grocery list is always the same—the biggest loaf of Sunbeam white bread we can find, a big jar of Duke’s mayonnaise, store brand salt and pepper, and tomatoes from the closest vegetable stand.
This year, I’ve added to the feast by making something that would drive Patricia nuts if she were here—a gallon of sweet tea made with two whole cups of white sugar.
The condo has a kitchenette, and when we were at the grocery store, I recalled seeing a stack of saucepans under one of the cabinets. I boiled water in the pan, added Lipton tea bags like we had when I was a kid, and then I let that beautiful white sugar melt right down in it all. I poured it straight into a big old Mason jar, added a bunch of those little half-moons of ice, and took a swig. Ah.
“You got tomato seeds dribbling down your shirt, pal,” I told Art.
“Don’t care,” he said, taking another bite. “I’ll change before Patricia gets back.”
“Hmph,” I said, enjoying another bite of my sandwich, the soft and gooey white bread sticking to the roof of my mouth. Man, the tomatoes are good this year.
Barb and Patricia buy these little bitty organic tomatoes the size of a quarter and talk about how tasty they are, but they can’t compete with these juicy Big Boys. I slice mine a little thinner than Art does, but shoot, I don’t care how he slices his tomatoes as long as he leaves mine alone.
Art doesn’t get to eat Duke’s the rest of the year, but I do. That man is so henpecked, it’s pitiful. I promised Barb I’d try to eat healthy, but I refuse to eat fake mayonnaise. Life’s too short, and like my mama always said, none of us came to stay. What’s the point in adding another decade or two to life if you’ve got to spend it eating sorry mayonnaise?
Art and Patricia eat some kind of “heart healthy” mayonnaise that triggers my gag reflex just to think about it.
I polish off my first sandwich and get going on the second. I know I’m probably good for a third. Besides, Art and I’ll be on a fishing boat soon, and we’ll sweat off a few calories.
Tonight, we’re going to some fancy new seafood restaurant the girls heard about. Barb and Patricia will probably order broiled shrimp and chef salads, but if Art and I want surf and turf, or baked potatoes with every single topping on the menu, that’s what we’ll get.
How’d we get our wives to go along with that? Easy.
One year, Barb and Patricia wanted to go to the outlet mall. They’d been nagging us about our diets all the way down to the beach and said they were afraid to leave us alone at the condo, so they suggested Art and I join them for a little shopping. I said I thought that was a great idea.
“Have you lost your mind, Joe?” Art had muttered under his breath.
“Trust me,” I’d told him.
That day, we stuck to our wives like chewing gum to the bottom of a shoe. Every time one of ’em picked up something, we commented on it. Every time they found a “bargain,” Art or I mentioned how expensive this vacation was and how we needed to watch the household budget. When Barb looked at a new set of cookware, I just smiled and said I thought our old cookware was just fine.
Interestingly enough, Art and I never got invited back shopping with them again, and they never said another word about our vacation eating habits.
“You gonna share that can of Pringles or do I need to head back to Winn-Dixie and buy some more?” I ask Art.
“Here you go. Knock yourself out. And Joe, that was a great idea about the sweet tea. Man, this reminds me of eating tomato sandwiches at my grandmother’s house when I was a boy.”
“I know what you mean,” I say. “Pour me another glass of that tea, will ya?”
Mmm, mmm, mmm.