It has been 11 years since my mom passed away, and I miss her more than I ever imagined I would, not knowing much about grief-stirring loss when I last knew her, shortly before I turned 21.
One way I love remembering my mom, keeping her in the energy of my heart, is through cooking a toasted egg and tomato sandwich which she often made for herself when she needed a quick meal. It is nourishing to the belly but also reminds me of how she is such a crucial part of my identity as I keep moving forward in the world, in life, as her daughter.
I didn’t eat these sandwiches until later in my 20s because of sharing her same picky palate (except that I like spicy and sour foods). As a kid, I scrunched my nose in dislike at tomatoes. She liked tomatoes, but I just didn’t. Once older, I even grew tomatoes in my garden but didn’t eat them. Thankfully, I fell in love with tomatoes after I discovered caprese, which combines tomatoes, basil leaves, mozzarella and potentially olive oil and black pepper or balsamic vinaigrette.
Wolff’s Apple House has a great selection of locally grown tomatoes and tomato plants, and they also sell organic eggs raised from cage-free hens known to roam and peck at grass and dirt as they please—from Nature’s Yolk based in New Holland, Lancaster County.
Two of my siblings each had little girls two years after my mom died, born a few months apart; they are now each nine years old, and I call them my Lily-Ladies, as their names are Lilly Jay and Lillee Grace. When I explain why they have names that sound identical, I usually offer that you are unlikely to see a single lily in nature. They’re usually in multiples, so it makes sense that there are two girls named after this flower in my family. And I am often sharing memories of my mom with them, since they never had a chance to meet her.
I will sometimes ask my youngest nieces something like, “Do you know who loved Golden Girls?” or another question in this same kind of phrasing, and they always say, “Nana” because they know that’s the usual answer. I love teaching my nieces about their grandmother.
And my family laughs because no matter what the circumstance, I always have a Golden Girls reference for any situation. In relation to tomatoes, there’s a funny episode where Rose and Sophia start a sandwich business specializing in BLTs, but they run out of tomatoes, so they use potatoes instead, and they hope that if they just say “bacon, lettuce and potato sandwiches” really fast people won’t notice. I watch reruns of Golden Girls a few nights a week before I sleep because of the comfort it gives in remembering seeing episodes with my mom during my childhood.
When my nieces were toddlers, I took them to Wholesome Dairy Farms in Yellow House, Berks County, where there is a cow called Sheron Faye. She is named after my mom as a thank you from the farmer, Mark Lopez, who appreciated me writing several articles about his raw milk dairy operation for several regional newspapers. I took the Lily-Ladies to meet Sheron Faye because I like to introduce them to farms and the natural world away from the digital age, and I want them to be exposed to agriculture so they understand who produces their food. Here are some scenes of them meeting Sheron Faye when they were little, followed by them enjoying tomatoes grown in my garden.
And here is glimpse into how they’re growing up, from a Children’s Poetry Day I hosted for National Poetry Month this year. Some of their poems included foxes and deer, an ode to cream-chipped beef, pig haiku and dogs barking at the stars. It always puts me in awe to see them growing into who they are as granddaughters of my mom.
I hope to introduce the toasted egg and tomato sandwich to the Lily-Ladies over breakfast or brunch soon. And remember that this idea is one you can join into your own homes, too, especially when you’d like something which you can make quickly.
To make the sandwich, scramble up some eggs, keeping them somewhat more together in a mass versus broken apart so they won’t fall out of the eventual toasted bread as you are mid-nibble. Slice tomatoes as thin or thick as you’d like. Sprinkle pink salt on the slices. Toast bread, and join everything together.
I tend to make awkwardly large sandwiches, which my mom didn’t do, but this is my adaptation, to make it a bit more my own. Lettuce is sometimes a nice add-on. Make the sandwich your own in any way you’d like to tweak it for satiating final bites. And maybe make a few to go around for your mom and the rest of your family on Mother’s Day, but also remember this sandwich for savoring in summer months when you are spending some time with your mom.