I was eight or nine when I met Harriet M. Welsch (who knows perfectly well she has no middle name), and her friends Sport and Janie, and her nanny Ole Golly, and I was instantly enraptured. Then there was the scene where she instructed the cook that she wanted a tomato sandwich, turning down offers of many other delicacies in favor of the tangy pulpy fruit.
She was a wise little girl.
Harriet lived in New York, of course, so it’s safe to assume that the tomatos on her famous sandwiches were from New Jersey, which is as it should be. I maintain that you have not truly tasted a proper tomato until you’ve had one nurtured in the rich soil of the Garden State. (If you should happen to pop a cherry-sized bit of tomato-y bliss into your mouth while standing barefoot in said soil, and while you, the earth and the tomato are pleasantly warm from the sun, so much the better.) No tomato compares. Truly.
Whenever there’s food in a novel, or story, I want to experience it. One of my fantasies, in fact, is to open a bookstore cafe where all the menu items are from literature. The mystery room would have gourmet dinners worthy of Nero Wolfe’s approval, but it would also offer proper afternoon teas, hosted by Miss Marple look-alikes (dead bodies optional). The science fiction room would have chocolate chai masquerading as klah, and stews would be cooked over bunsen burners a la the mother in A Wrinkle in Time, but I digress.
Harriet introduced me to tomato sandwiches and got me hooked on writing, as I was already hooked on reading. With Harriet’s inspiration, I started a neighborhood newspaper using my grandfather’s old gun-metal grey manual typewriter and a table-top mimeograph machine, I began keeping notebooks of thoughts and ideas, and I started flirting with journals, though, because I’ve got a strong fickle streak, the latter never lasted.
I’m sitting here now in Barnes and Noble, Cedar Hill, Texas, sipping chai and finishing a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich, and toasting Harriet the Spy, and imaginative little girls everywhere.