The word from farmers around Georgia is that we are somewhere between four and six weeks between an annual cause for celebration. That's the appearance of homegrown tomatoes in backyard gardens and at farmer’s markets. Salvation South editor Chuck Reece says that with these precious fruits comes an opportunity for all Southerners—regardless of politics, philosophy, or faith—to come together.

Tomato sandwich
Credit: Collage by Jake Cook



Chuck Reece: The American South is a land marked by conflict. But there is one thing—one perfect thing—about which every Southerner can agree.

The tomato sandwich.

I know there are a few lost souls who claim not to love them, but a well-made summertime tomato sandwich can convert even these hard-hearted people.

And today, I am here to help you with the instructions for making a tomato sandwich the right way. The process should always begin with this couplet from the late, brilliant Tennessee songwriter Guy Clark.

Up in the mornin’, out in the garden
Get you a ripe
un, don’t get a hard ’un.

If you have no garden, visit a neighbor who does or your local farmer’s market. To make a genuine, sanctified tomato sandwich, you must begin with a fine, fresh tomato. Never make a tomato sandwich with a mealy, plain-Jane, supermarket tomato.

You need only four other ingredients:

First, store-bought white bread. Sunbeam is my go-to loaf. Second, salt. And not just table salt, but something with bigger grains. You want that crunch. Third, black pepper. Freshly ground is best. And finally, you need mayonnaise.

If you’re new to the South, you should understand that one sure way to start an argument down here is to ask somebody what mayonnaise they buy. The battle is always between the Two Great Southern Mayonnaises: Duke’s vs. Blue Plate. Duke’s origins were in Greenville, South Carolina. Blue Plate was born in Gretna, Louisiana.

Under no circumstances should you use Hellmann’s. It originated in New York City.

I grew up eating Blue Plate, and I still stick with it, but I have no problem with Duke’s. To my palate, it’s slightly tangier than Blue Plate. Either one works on a tomato sandwich.

To assemble the sandwich, slice the tomato thickly, spread lots of mayo on both slices of the white bread, cover one side with tomato slices, then salt and pepper it to taste.

A tomato sandwich made this way will make you shudder with joy, no matter where you eat it. But if you want serious Southern street cred, where you eat the sandwich matters, too, as does what you wearwhile eating it. Never eat a tomato sandwich while wearing long sleeves. Second, a tomato sandwich is best eaten while standing over your kitchen sink.

If your sandwich is made right—with a juicy tomato and a proper abundance of mayo—taking the first bite will send a stream of tomato juice and mayonnaise out of the sandwich and down your arms. If your sleeves are short and you’re standing over the sink, that luscious liquid will just run down your arms and off your elbows and down the drain.

So tasty. So convenient. So joyous.

Y’all come see us, where you can find wisdom like this at any time of the day or night.

Salvation South editor Chuck Reece comments on Southern culture and values in a weekly segment that airs Fridays at 7:45 a.m. during Morning Edition and 4:44 p.m. during All Things Considered on GPB Radio. You can also find them here at and please download and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform as well.