BASEBALL, HOT DOGS AND TOMATO COBBLER


Musical pairing – Home by Michael Bublé

I don’t really remember actually eating tomatoes while living in the little house on Ankeny Street, I’m sure I did because we grew them in our garden and I know that my grandmother grew them in her garden. In fact, I believe that everyone who had a garden, grew tomatoes. In my family, we ate tomatoes on a hamburger or chopped up and made into salsas, soups or some type of pasta sauce. Tomato ‘jam’ or ‘chutney’ didn’t exist in my corner of the world – those were kinda fancy for a little town like Walla Walla . . .

Back then the population was somewhere around 25,000 and stayed that size for many years; it was a farming community – cattle, wheat, alfalfa. Small family farms raised chickens and pigs or grew crops like strawberries, green beans or corn (for human consumption) that folks could go and pick themselves to can or freeze for the winter. Two food-processing plants hired crews in the summer to harvest vegetables: peas, carrots, onions, corn and asparagus. I remember my mother working there a few summers when I was little.

I had cousins, aunts and uncles who either worked in the fields or in the plant at one time or another. In fact, my sister and I worked a few summers on the assembly lines . . . I can still hear our supervisor, Mary, face dark and leathery from too much sun, yelling above the din of the machinery . . . ‘Pick out your white butts’ . . . she was referring to the white stalks on asparagus which are tough and woody and not the prime vegetables Birdseye wanted . . .

Summers in Walla Walla meant riding bicycles, swimming at the local pool, movies at the downtown theater, picnics at the park and family reunions. Fried chicken, potato and macaroni salad, hot dogs and hamburgers, coleslaw, watermelon; jello salad, plates of pickles and sliced tomatoes dressed the tables that could barely hold it all . . . cousins caught up with cousins, the ‘menfolk’ played horseshoes while the ‘womenfolk’ drank coke or pepsi and gossiped about the menfolk and their neighbors. And at some point during the day, my dad and uncle Jim would pick teams and we’d be involved in a full-blown softball game: boys, girls, moms, dads, grandparents – if you were old enough to hold a bat, you’d be running around those bases giving it everything you had to slide across home plate . . .

The last time I was in Walla Walla was ten years ago when we buried my father; it was a different reunion then – good to see my family but I wished that my dad was still alive and he and my uncle Jim could pick teams again, still chasing each other around the baseball diamond. I find it ironic that as a child, all I wanted to do was ‘get outta Dodge and see the world’ . . . as a grownup, all I want to do is head back home . . .

And if by chance I was lucky enough to attend a family reunion, I’d take this beautiful Tomato Cobbler; it celebrates the best of what summer has to offer: warm from the oven, sweet cherry tomatoes and lovely braised onions . . . all topped with a cheesy biscuit . . .

Can I just get an ‘Amen’ for summer?

**********

43 Comments

  1. Jim Buerstatte

    I just came across this as I was doing a search on Walla Walla, Bird’s Eye and D & K. I left WWW in 1975. I miss the good old days as you described. Thanks

  2. Tomato COBBLER! This sounds & looks insanely good!

  3. Oh, Debra, you hit right home with this post. I also could not wait to get outta Dodge, and now I am planning how to retire there:) We lived different lives, in different areas of this world, but we have similar experiences and a lot of things in common. I am so glad that we have met:)
    The only cobblers I’ve had a chance to taste were made with stone fruit. I am really intrigued by tomato cobbler. I just wonder what my family in Serbia would think of it:)

  4. Beautiful post. I saw the tomato cobbler recipe in Martha Steward Living and cannot wait to make it with my homegrown heirloom tomatoes 🙂

  5. AMEN!

    Thank you for sharing a memory from Walla Walla. 🙂 Those were simpler times, indeed.

    I grew up playing baseball with the boys, selling lemonade on the corner, and crawling through the river bottom for rocks. And all I wanted too, was to “get out.” Luckily, I’m only 45 minutes from “home,” so I get there often. It’s where my mamma still lives.

    [K]

  6. Debra,
    Thanks for sharing your childhood memories of Walla Walla. Perhaps one day, you can return with your Tomato Cobbler, which looks outstanding, and relive some of the happy moments.

  7. I’ve never heard of a tomato cobbler either, but maybe that’s because most of my life I’ve been a tomato hater. Only recently have I begun to give in to the dark side. I’m not saying I’m a fan, but I don’t think I hate them anymore. Hey, that’s progress! But I’ve always loved tomatoes cooked (it’s just that raw, slimy form that causes me problems), so that means this recipe is going on the list! Thanks SO much for sharing the recipe and your fun summer memories too.

  8. Thanks for sharing your sweet summer memories with us. Never have heard of a tomato cobbler, but it sounds like something I would love.

  9. Oh this just looks so fabulous! I must try it

  10. AMEN!

    And love the idea of a tomato cobbler…looks stunning!

  11. Such a gorgeous recipe, and I love your story of growing up in Walla Walla. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Love all of the beautiful photos… This cobbler sounds simply amazing! I need to give it a try!

  13. You know we never did anything fancy with our tomatoes either. On dad’s side of the family granny grew them for salads, tomato sandwhiches and such. On mom’s side they were used for traditional sauces in momsie’s pasta dishes. I have never tried a tomato cobbler and now I’m on a mission. Love the cheesy biscuit topping 🙂

  14. I recently made a scalloped tomato dish (which I haven’t posted yet) but I’m thinking this would be even better….I do love biscuits! They sop up all the good stuff underneath. 🙂 Dishes like this are so great with grilled burgers or hot dogs.

    I love your small town memories. I was from a small town too…2000 people. I had a wonderful childhood with lots of good memories too. My parents are buried there and it has changed so drastically. Not for the good either. Very depressing actually. Sometimes it’s not always good to go back.

  15. The tomato cobbler sounds divine!

  16. You can definitely get an amen! Loving the idea of savory cobbler, Deb. Happy Summer!

  17. I had no Idea you grew up in Walla Walla! I have spent a lot of time there- it is a beautiful area. The tomato cobbler is gorgeous.

  18. You have blown my mind with this, i absolutely cannot wait to make !!

  19. I love a good cobbler but I have never thought of doing a savory one. It looks divine!

  20. Tomato cobbler! That sounds brilliant!

  21. You’ve painted a beautiful picture of those summers. I can almost hear the laughter ringing in the background and feel the warm summer sun on my shoulders.

  22. Savory cobblers. I like. No no. I love. Perfect for a summer afternoon..

    Deb – You’re pictures are gorgeous! 🙂

  23. I must say, your hometown sounds much better than mine – I never want to go back to my roots! But if I grew up in Walla Walla I would be singing a different tune, I think. Funny when I first read the title of this post I thought it was a hot dog and tomato tart – which actually sounds good in a weird way! Your tart is just lovely, I would eat it up in a heartbeat.

  24. Amen Sista! I hope you get to have a family reunion on a much more joyous occasion. I’m sure they will all adore you and your Tomato Cobbler.

  25. Hey Debra, That first pic is absolutely stunning! I was just thinking yesterday what am I going with the carton full of tomato bounty I got at the farmers market. Tomatoes of all sizes, colors and shapes, you see I go overboard. Last night I made a multi color pear and other cherry tomatoes salad maybe today or tomorrow I will make your cobbler.

  26. This sounds nothing less than perfect but does make me long for the Midwestern days of amazing tomatoes. High altitude only gets you OK tomatoes, they will never measure up to those from my childhood!

  27. I know the feeling, you never really appreciate the beauty of what you have right at your own backdoor when you are a kid. I remember spending my summers away from all my friends would make me sad but as an adult all I want is to be able to go back and relive those summers I had with my grandparents.

  28. This tomato cobbler idea is pretty darn brilliant. Also, I love your musical pairings. Yay for Buble!

  29. Vicki Silides

    How funny that you are remembering Mary from the old days at Birdseye. I hadn’t thought of her in forever until last week in Hawaii. I was at Pearl Harbor and an older woman walked by me and the scent of Taboo perfume filled the outdoor air. I was immediately transplanted to 1976, night shift and worrying about “my white butts”. Ha Ha. Great memories. I will make this cobbler as it seems like it will be fantastic. Love you sis.

    • luv you back sis! isn’t it funny how a scent or a recipe reminds us of times? you will love this recipe – so simple yet the flavors meld and it is heaven!

  30. This looks like an incredible summer dish!

  31. I adore this post, and this recipe! Savory cobblers are a recent fascination of mine, but the story of family, of home, and of reflections about childhood that you added to it are what make the recipe and beautiful photos special. Bookmarking to use when our CSA tomatoes come in! 🙂

    • Thanks so much Evan ~ Walla Walla was a magical time although I didn’t know it back then – so much to be thankful for!

  32. Your writing always moves me, Deb. I swear this sounds so much like my own childhood summer experiences attending big family reunions with cousins, aunts and uncles that we hadn’t seen since the reunion the year before. Life was so much simpler back then…

  33. Is it me or does your hubby have great hands??? *misses point totally*

    Great recipe! 🙂

    • yes Amanda – The Professor has great hands and the recipe is fabulous . . . although it is NOT a fancy cake . . .

  34. Tomato Pie is a favorite of mine but I’ve never had Tomato Cobbler, but that will change very soon me thinks.

  35. Gorgeous Deb, just gorgeous. Loved the post. Reminds me a lot of where i live now.

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