Aug 18 • 4M

Podcast: Eternal Tomato on Toast

The tomato returns, audio and text, with recipe

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the audio version of dinner document by Rebecca May Johnson, with writing, recipes and my eating updates
Episode details

Hello! My name is Rebecca May Johnson, I am a writer and cook. For my second week on summer break away from the newsletter, I am sharing a short piece about tomatoes as text and audio online for the first time; it was first printed in a Frieze Week special in 2020 with a tomato-filled portrait by Marion Kadi.

Back to regular service next week, with a giveaway for readers who have ordered my book!

If you’d like to pre-order SMALL FIRES, AN EPIC IN THE KITCHEN out 25th August with Pushkin Press, you can do so here (UK) and here (UK, US, & Europe). The book received some wonderful reviews in the last two weeks, in The Observer, and in The Sunday Times.

Eternal Tomato on Toast

During our collective confinement, the tomato returned time and again. These repeat encounters reminded me of listening to Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint: I. Fast (1985): the thrumming clarinets return in near-identical waves from which new forms, textures and rhythms are magicked.

The tomato returned in waves, too: seeing it, picking it up, putting it down, cutting it, then dressing or cooking it, with each slight modification releasing different sensations. I wrote a few diary entries in which I described what I had done with tomatoes:

Tomato sliced and laid on a plate with olive oil, red wine vinegar and thyme, eaten on thickly buttered toast with soft-boiled eggs.

Tomato cut into quarters, dried in the oven overnight with thyme and eaten with soft-boiled eggs.

Tomato cut in half and pricked and cooked cut side down in butter and finally, cream, like Elizabeth David, after Édouard de Pomiane.

Tomato blanched, peeled and sliced, then carefully reassembled into a tomato shape and garnished with very finely diced onion, olive oil, and vinegar, after Jeremy Lee.

Tomato blanched, peeled and sliced, then laid on toast, rubbed on both sides with garlic, and covered with hot clear chicken stock, after Caroline Conran.

Each return of the tomato produced aspects of form, taste and composition that I had not foreseen — something concrete, a new way of seeing, not the product of a bad algorithm. A small move against the ambiguous terror of the moment.

Tomato on Toast


1 large ripe tomato

1 thick slice of bread

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

a few chives snipped with scissors, or a few fresh thyme leaves

salted butter, fridge cold

salt and pepper


Cut the tomato into 1/2cm slices, removing the tough core. Lay the slices on a small serving plate.

Spoon over the vinegar and oil and garnish with the chives or thyme leaves. Season with a good pinch of salt and black pepper.

Set yourself a place: plate, knife and fork, napkin, the cold butter. Put the tomato plate on the table.

Toast the bread until almost charred and bring it to the table.

Cut slices of butter and place them on the hot toast, then lay tomato slices on top.

Enjoy with black coffee.