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Editorial: Virus can’t stop the true joy of summer 

The summer of 2020. Will we ever be able to forget it?

Wearing a face mask in the sweltering heat is no fun. Heck, wearing a face mask is no fun. Period. But we must do it. We should do it.

Social distancing? We’re doing that. Staying at home. We’re doing that more, too. And again, in the summer, when things get a little slower, there’s more daylight and free time and lots of public concerts and festivals, a lot of backyard barbecues and swimming pool parties, to occupy one’s time. It’s just not the same six feet apart.

There’s one thing the coronavirus hasn’t ruined in this summer of 2020.

On the way home from work today, I’m stopping by the grocery store. On the list is a loaf of bread and a jar of mayo.

Up in the mornin’ out in the garden

Get you a ripe one baby

Don’t get hard one

Yes, it’s tomato sandwich time. And no virus can stop us from enjoying those. In the South, a tomato sandwich is a right of passage. The day you go from turning your nose up at tomatoes to savoring a tomato sandwich is the day you become a man.

There’s some arguments about the best way to make and enjoy a tomato sandwich.

Some people prefer, no, some people demand, square white loaf bread. I’m not picky about that one, but I do prefer, no, I do demand, loaf bread.

Untoasted. No thick cut homemade sourdough allowed here. Pre-sliced loaf bread only. Get a couple of slices out of the bag, twirl the bag and put the wrapping under the bread and place it back. Quickly, before anyone sees the twist tie went flying and you were so excited about the upcoming sandwich that you didn’t take the time to look for it.

Back to the sandwich. Two pieces of bread. Variations happen here, too. Some people prefer, no, some people demand, mayo on both slices. I can go either way on that one.

And about that mayo. Any old mayo will do, right? Wrong. At our house, it’s Duke’s. Always Duke’s. Only Duke’s. Forever Duke’s. I’m not a mayo aficionado, and I’m not brand loyal. But my wife is. So it’s Duke’s.

Next, in my tomato sandwich how-to, black pepper is sprinkled onto the mayo on the bread.

Then you add tomato. Preferably, a tomato big enough that a slice will cover the bread. The thickness of the slice of tomato is a personal preference, but for goodness sake, use a fully ripe homegrown tomato. Then I add salt to the tomato.

Time to eat, right? I think so. But others prefer to let the sandwich sit a few minutes. That way the tomato juices seep into the bread, making it nearly impossible to hold. Those sandwiches require some tactics that only a seasoned tomato sandwich eater would know.

First off, make the sandwich next to the kitchen sink. Pick it up carefully, holding the entire slice of bread on the palm of your hand. Hunch over the sink, grab the sandwich with both hands and quickly start eating. But be careful, those tomato slices will slide right out if you’re not holding the sandwich correctly. Juices will drip into the sink. Juices will drip onto your chin. Juices will ooze from the corners of your mouth. Juices will run down your wrist to your arm. And at some point, the sandwich will try its best to fall apart. Anticipate this, and be ready. When this happens, without thinking, cram the whole thing into your mouth. The mess will mostly be in the sink, and you have water right there to clean your hands and face.

And if you’re like most people, especially when those first tomatoes start to ripen, you won’t stop at that first sandwich. Just repeat all of the above steps and enjoy.

And for a few minutes, forget about face masks and social distancing, forget about the unknowns of school as we’ve never seen it,  forget about the news. Forget about the coronavirus. Just let your troubles melt away in a sloppy tomato sandwich.

Plant ‘em in the spring and eat ‘em in the summer

All winter without ‘em’s a culinary bummer

I forget about the sweatin’ and diggin’

Everytime I go out and pick me a big ‘un.

Guy Clark knew it was true in his song, “Homegrown Tomatoes.”

If I could change this life I lead

I’d be Johnny Tomato Seed

‘Cause I know what this country needs

Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see.

Mike Barnhardt is editor of the Davie County Enterprise Record.