Culinary Delights

by Mike Hemming

Our cooks were great... Of course, we never let them know it. We heaped abuse on them as they heaped delicious chow onto our plates.

Among the crew were also some good cooks or ones that knew local delights. One of them was learning that real chili could be good to eat. Made by a TexMex shipmate that had his own peppers and used chunks of beef, not ground. Yeah, yeah I know, but it wasn't 'Oh God, I have molten lava in my mouth!' stuff. But a light, guilty pleasure dancing across the tongue followed by only small beads of sweat in the brow. And the results the next day didn't require asbestos toilet paper. I loved the man's chili so much because he refused to put beans in it.

"Only poor people put beans in Chili," he'd say with disdain.

One evening after the movie, three of us Maryland boys started discussing our local foods. We disagreed on some but were unanimous on the beauty of the fried tomato. These are not the ones that are fried green, but full red ripe ones. Not the ones you see in the south, eaten by people who cant wait for perfection. Like in the movie 'Fried Green Tomatoes', proving that people who eat green tomatoes are cannibals and will eat anything and enjoy it. I mean, I couldn't eat Carolina pork barbecue for two whole days after seeing that movie.

Anyway, one of us said,

"Lets cook some up... There is a case of beautiful local tomatoes in the reefer."

So a pound of bacon was cooked on the grill... It's the only proper grease to use, nothing else will do. We sliced up a dozen tomatoes and dredged them in flour, seasoned with just a little too much salt and pepper. Laid lovingly on the hot grill, the aroma brought crewmembers to the galley in droves.

Whereupon seeing the results the reaction was,

"What's that stuff, it looks terrible."

Admittedly, by the time fried tomatoes are done they are a bit of a hash. Browned and slightly burnt flour, the softened meat of the tomatoes falling apart, often held together only by the skin.

"Its fried tomatoes, you idiot, there good, try some".

"I dunno... Oh, okay."

"Damn these are good! Gimme a few more... Well, make it a plateful".

Well for the next hour John, Vos and I sliced, floured and fried tomatoes feeding platefuls to guys that had been revolted by the first sighting. By the time we were done, a whole case was gone.

The rules aboard a sub are you can cook anything in port you want as long as you clean up and tell the head cook if you use anything up. So the next morning I reported to him,

"We used up a case of tomatoes last night".

"You did WHAT?"

"A case... We fried them".

"You idiots did WHAT?"

"Yup, fried um."

"Jeezus! you guys will eat anything."

"Well Boof, we eat your shit, don't we?"

Two days later, after guys had passed the word around it was,

"Hey Hemming..."

"What Boof?"

"What's the recipe for your fried tomatoes?"