harriet the spy ~ tomato sandwiches

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The next morning Mrs. Welsch asked, “Wouldn’t you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad, or peanut butter?” Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged.

“Tomato,” said Harriet, not even bothering to look up from the book she was reading.

~from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Do any of you remember this awesome book? I read Harriet the Spy when I was in third grade, and when I was done devouring it I immediately went out to get the sequel, The Long Secret. This is the first book that ever made a lasting impression on me. I was taken in by this awkward, lovable, smart and sassy character. Harriet has moxie, and her character is still among one of my top ten favorites.

I picked up the book again in seventh grade while my parents were renting a farmhouse on a dairy farm in Rush City, Minnesota. I was inspired to start a spy route and talked one of my best friends into spying with me. Unfortunately, with the exception of cows, bees and corn growing, there isn’t much to spy on in small, rural town in Minnesota. Our adventures didn’t last very long. I do remember writing our spy journals in Pig Latin so that nobody would possibly understandΒ  them should they fall into the wrong hands. This stealthy thinking obviously made us naturals and I wonder, to this day, if we possibly missed our calling.

Yesterday I had a very specific craving for a tomato sandwich. It got me thinking about Harriet M. Welsch. I started to excavate the fridge and cupboard for the ingredients : soft bread, ripe, juicy tomato, Hellman’s mayonnaise, salt and pepper. I got out a plate and then I paused. I climbed the steps to my daughter’s room and scanned her bookshelf looking for my copy (now her copy) of Harriet the Spy. I found it, all tattered and taped, and brought it downstairs where I skimmed it while I ate my yummy, very messy sandwich. I found the quote that I was looking for and wrote it down.

Man, that sandwich was GOOD! I’ve always loved the simple, delicious ingredients, but once I had read about Harriet they tasted even better. Inspiration and imagination are the very best seasonings, wouldn’t you agree?

What are your favorite books from childhood? What books made a lasting impression?


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  14 comments for “harriet the spy ~ tomato sandwiches

  1. September 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Yes, I adored Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret and also tried spying with friends, but never quite got into the adventures Harriet did. Also never quite shared her love of tomato sandwiches … however, I remember the “foodie” parts of other books read in childhood. I think they stuck in my memory because I was meant to be a food blogger (and wouldn’t Harriet have written a great blog of any kind?). The Wizard of Oz has Dorothy eating fresh fruit and drinking spring water on her first day in Oz; there is a lot about food — and hunger — in Gone With The Wind. Someday I want to make and/or eat the dinners of Scarlett O’Hara’s and Rhett Butler’s honeymoon in New Orleans. And don’t forget the clambake scene in The Long Secret!

    • Melissa
      September 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Oh my gosh Nancy! Thanks for reminding me! How about the eggcreams at the nearby soda shoppe? πŸ™‚ thanks so much for your awesome comment…and possible fodder for future posts? πŸ˜‰ xoxo

  2. ellen
    October 22, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    I have a similarly tattered copy of the Long Secret… loved both books but never tried the tomato sandwich ha ha! These books were so hilarious to me and my sister; we quoted them from memory so often that much of the text remains part of our “sister language” to this day.

    • Melissa
      October 22, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      How cool, Ellen! Thanks for sharing that with me πŸ™‚

  3. Delynn Dell
    May 26, 2013 at 6:06 am

    I did all this too. Yet, I
    ONLY can eat a fabulous
    TOMATO sandwich made with
    ……….drumroll, please……….
    you ALL KNOW what’s going to
    be said. Right?
    Miracle Whip.

    • Melissa
      May 26, 2013 at 8:32 am

      LOL Delynn! GASP!!! Miracle Whip? What? oh well…I really don’t like the stuff, but I know a lot of people do. I love homemade or Helmann’s mayo. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by! XO

  4. Gwen Baskin
    August 30, 2013 at 1:47 am

    Yes nothing tastes more like summer than a tomato sand.
    My mom grew the best tomatoes and a tomato sammy was a treasured treat. My daughter at my mom’s eulogy spoke of how it was part of our memory of her. Your article brings back many fond memories πŸ™‚

    • Melissa
      August 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Hi there, Gwen πŸ™‚ What a lovely memory of your mom! Thank you for sharing that with me. Tomato sandwiches are most definitely the quintessential fare of summer. XOXO ~M

  5. Lorrie
    July 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    No pepper, but mayo, salt and soft white bread. Always my favorite! This also made me think of a date night a while back with my hubby. One of the books I picked. πŸ˜‰ http://www.thedatingdivas.com/tara/the-bookstore-date/

    • Melissa
      July 26, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Hi Lorrie!

      Thanks for visiting and for the book recommendation!


  6. Patricia
    August 20, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Now I know what I’m having for lunch! Harriet the Spy was my all time favorite book as a kid! I insisted my daughter read it when she was about 8 or 9. And now, in my mid 50’s, I may have to dig up a copy and read it again! Thanks for sharing the great memories!!

    • Melissa
      August 26, 2014 at 11:59 am

      Hi Patricia! πŸ™‚

      I may have to do a re-read myself! Such a great book. Did you read the sequel “The Long Secret?” Also good πŸ™‚

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  7. Patricia
    August 23, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I never read the book but could really go for one of those sandwiches right now & I have loads of tomatoes ripening daily.

    • Melissa
      August 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      Yum! Garden tomatoes are the best! Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚


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