For Love of Harriet

May 22, 2010

I’ve always suffered mad book-love, even before I could actually read. Mama read to us for hours during long North Dakota winters, and I learned early on that even if you were snowed-in and drop-dead-bored, you could lose yourself in the world of Wonka; be comforted by Charlotte, spinning in a corner of the barn.

For most kids, summer means swimming, baseball, popsicles, games of kick-the-can. For me, summer meant books. Lots and lots of books. Mama would take me to the library twice a week and I’d get lost in possibility, studying shelves and scanning inside covers with ardent fingers. Books took me far away from myself; they made me forget that I didn’t have any friends and felt nervous all the time. I could go places without ever leaving the four walls of my room. Books were magic.

One of my favorite books was (and still remains) Harriet the Spy. I adored Harriet–every sneaky, spunky inch of her. The summer I discovered Harriet, I realized that it was okay if nobody wanted me on their kickball team–Harriet would carry me through. And she did.

I loved Harriet so much that I told Mama that I needed to try Harriet’s favorite lunch: The Tomato Sandwich. Mama, bless her heart, was happy to oblige.

Turns out, Harriet was right. There’s nothing quite so fine in life as a tomato sandwich. To this day, it’s one of my favorite afternoon repasts. Sure, things have changed a bit–I don’t use squishy white bread and I jettison the Miracle Whip and I add an extra flavor or two–but the essence is still the same.

Once tomatoes are worth eating again, Harriet’s sandwich calls to me. It’s the first thing I crave when those plump, juicy, red suckers hit the Farmer’s Market stalls. I snatch a good baguette, slice into vermillion, and fall in love all over again.

Tomato Sandwich (grown-up version)
serves one

Good crusty baguette, sliced
Best Foods mayonnaise, mixed with a squeeze of lemon and a little garlic
Fresh basil leaves
Spring/Summer tomato worth eating
Generous sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Layer ingredients on baguette in quantities that suit you. Devour. Spend the rest of the afternoon, if possible, lost in a good book.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacia May 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm

My Harriet was Ramona. Love those books. Not sure how I feel about the forthcoming movie … I am sure how I feel about the tomato sandwich though. Like CK, I take mine with plenty o' fresh mozzarella. Yum!


Amber May 26, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Oooo this looks delicious. Have you ever added ripe avocados to this? I bet it would taste divine.


Jody May 26, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I do the Italian version – fresh mozzarella instead of mayo, and a little drizzle of olive oil. Mmmmmm. . .


Lyndsey May 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm

It's so hard to get good tomatoes here in Florida, none are as good as what my mom grew in Michigan!


The Curious Cat May 28, 2010 at 6:51 am

I love a good tomato sandwich – but it needs to be a good tomato – you are totally right! Great minds think alike…! PS You look like an angel in that photo! xxx


Kelly May 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm

A tomato sandwich is on my "last meal" list. The tomato must be ripe and fresh from the vine. That's all I stipulate. My mother insists on white bread and Duke's mayo (we're Southern you know). A tomato sandwich just screams summer.


The Nervous Cook May 31, 2010 at 6:37 am

Thank you for reminding me how much I loved "Harriet the Spy." Also how desperately I need a tomato sandwich!


subWOW August 10, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I think this is kind of related so I am just going to put it out there here: we found the recipe for pancakes from Nate the Great and my 7 yo asked me to make pancakes from it because he’s been really into Nate the Great. They turned out great! So I make them now when our weekends allow us to have lazy mornings.


Paula August 29, 2010 at 5:33 am

I couldn’t agree more–about books …AND tomato sandwiches, although I would have no trouble eating them on squishy white bread if there was nothing better.


The Meaning of Me August 6, 2012 at 11:47 am

Clicked over here from your Thai beef salad today. I was the kid who spent summer in a book, too! I would much rather have spent my days in the cool library on inside on my beanbag chair (yes, I’m that old) getting lost in my books. Wait, I still do that (minus the bean bag chair)!

Agreed – nothing as wonderful as a tomato sandwich and they are my favorite summer thing. I am sad when the summer tomatoes go away, because winter supermarket ones just don’t do it. :)


TKW August 6, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Meaning of Me,

There is nothing so pathetic and lackluster as a winter tomato. I’m depressed just thinking about them. Right now is PEAK tomato awesomeness in Colorado, and I’m eating so many that I’m almost making myself sick. But I don’t care. I’m storing up tomato memories to see me through the cold months.


The Meaning of Me August 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Oh, I do that too! And this summer I have learned how to make fried green tomatoes…thus extending the potential for tomato enjoyment past the prime! :)


TKW August 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm


Have you tried a fried green tomato BLT? Heaven!


The Meaning of Me August 7, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Oh my goodness! No, but I will now. Have some turkey bacon in the fridge just begging for a reason to use it. Great idea – thanks! :)


Glenn July 15, 2020 at 8:58 am

Yes, I too was one of those kids that loved books and read voraciously. If I liked a book I’d read it 2 or 3 times. Sadly no tomato sammues for me, I usually has bologna, which was okay!


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