You say to-MAY-to and I say to-MAH-to.
Actually, I say to-MAY-to.
And I know a lot of people who say to-MAY-duh.
But however you say it, when you refer to the Pittston Tomato Festival, you should always include the word Pittston.
See, this is not a tomato festival that happens to be held in the City of Pittston. It’s a festival of the Pittston Tomato, a quality tomato grown only in these parts.
That’s what one of the festival co-founders always stressed. The late Val D’Elia (he’s on the new downtown mural, by the way, the guy in the wild yellow plaid suit) claimed the soil in the area of Greater Pittston had a composition that produced a unique tomato with a flavor all its own. Some suggested it might be related to the acidity associated with soil around the anthracite coal mines.
Whatever the reason, most folks agree the tomatoes grown around here are exceptional.
One would think a tomato festival would be celebrated in a region that produced vast amounts of tomatoes in fields spreading over acres and acres. One would expect to see large canning facilities, may a Campbell’s Soup factory.
On the contrary, most Pittston Tomatoes are grown in backyards. Sure, there are some farmers who produce and sell tomatoes by the bushel, but the Pittston Tomato that inspired the festival is more of a personal thing. People who have grown up here have fond memories of picking a ripe tomato in grandpa’s back yard, washing it under the faucet in the kitchen sink, sprinkling it with salt and letting the juice run down their chin as they enjoyed it.
The salt shaker was often kept in one hand to be replenished as needed.
Of course, the ways to prepare and serve tomatoes is limited only by one’s imagination. My friend Leo Sperrazza once made tomato wine and won a gold medal at Corrado’s Amateur Winemaking Competition.
Several mouth-watering ideas appear in a little book I found lying around our house. The Totally Tomato Cookbook, (published by Celestial Arts, copyright 1996) by Helene Siegel lists, among other recipes:
• Cold cucumber and tomato soup
• Tomato fennel bisque
• Tomatoes with crab and corn salad
• Tomato mango ceviche
• Tomato onion tarts
And, get this:
• Sun-dried tomato anisette biscotti
I don’t know where my wife picked this up though, but the good news is the Totally Tomato Cookbook is available at Amazon.
As I said, it’s a little book.
About the size of a tomato sandwich, I’d say, on white bread with a couple of slices of Cooper cheese and Hellmann’s mayo, just the way my wife likes them.
Must be Hellman’s by the way.