The sweet taste of friendship

For some time now we have been having farmers markets at work where traders turn up with all sorts of wonderful produce for sale - including a spectacular tomato stand with all sorts of varieties and shapes I had never heard of.

At the time of their most recent visit I wasn't in the building and expressed my disappointment at missing it on our work bulletin board.

To my delight and amazement a regular on the board e-mailed me to say that he had picked up a range of wonderful tomatoes for me and not only that but he wouldn't take and payment for them in return.

The first meal I had with them were a few cherry tomatoes with fried halumi cheese and capers with just salt and pepper on the tomatoes. These tomatoes were still on the vine, the darkest red of the lot, almost blood red inside, and had a wonderful strong flavour and indeed smell

Second meal was a huge, fleshy, flavoursome beef tomato sliced thinly with mozzarella, olive oil, basil and salt and pepper. This tomato was huge and had not only a fleshy texture inside but an almost human fleshy feel to the touch when handling it. I left it to infuse with the flavours of the cheese and basil for a couple of hours and was amply rewarded for the wait

This morning for breakfast I had a wonderful combination that I first experienced on the Gargano Peninsula in the deep south of Italy - fried chopped tomatoes with garlic, chili, salt and pepper on toasted olive ciabatta bread. These were the most "normal" tomatoes of the three but when fried softened and blended with the garlic and chili into a wonderful mulch

The tomatoes would have tasted wonderful whatever their source but tasted all the better for the kindness and thoughtfulness they had come to symbolize.