February 3, 2012 by E.
No, I’m not talking about my romantic relationship with my boyfriend. I’m talking about my love affair with tomatoes.
Even though I haven’t been sold on this whole “tomato is a fruit” agenda, regardless of whether it is a fruit or a vegetable, I love the tomato in all its varieties. I will eat a tomato any way you give it to me. Aside from the classically perfect, could never be improved upon, tomato-mozzarella-basil-balsamic presentation, I love it sliced thick, seasoned with salt and pepper (heavy on the pepper), placed between two pieces of sourdough bread that have been coated with just a thin layer of mayo.
Over the summer, when I could pick freshly-grown tomatoes straight from my boyfriend’s mother’s garden, at least half the tomatoes I harvested never made it onto a plate, much less into a dish. I ate them straight from the cutting board, standing at the kitchen counter, salt-shaker in hand.
That summer was both difficult and joyous in so many ways. There are some details of that summer that I’ve forgotten, because they were insignificant, some memories I wish I could forget, but haven’t because they were life-changing, and some experiences, such as the simplicity of eating home-grown food in its pure, unaltered state, that have made a lasting impression on my soul.
After returning to the States following my semester spent in Italy, I came to the realization that we Americans seem to love long distance relationships. With our food.
Walk into a grocery store – even a high-end, hippie organic grocery store, like Whole Foods – and notice what’s in the produce section. Is there food from local farmers? Maybe, a few boxes. But the overwhelming majority of the selection is from mass-producers hundreds of miles away. Most of it isn’t even in season, anywhere. I don’t care if it is organically grown, pesticide-free. I don’t care if Mother Nature Herself has sung it sweet lullabies to coax that plant up out of the ground. You simply should not be able to buy a tomato in December.
Just as an experiment, buy a tomato in the dead of winter. Buy a tomato that has been grown hundreds of miles away (probably in Mexico), snatched from the vine (by an high-tech industrial machine) while still incipiently green and tasteless, packed in a crate, and driven for days, eventually turning red out of necessity. That tomato did not ripen in the sun; it’s delicious, sweet flavors were never allowed to come to fruition in the way nature intended. Buy one of these tomatoes, and tell me whether or not you enjoyed eating it.
Let’s draw a lesson from Jurassic Park – just because we can doesn’t mean we should. I haven’t had a tomato since August. But that will make the advent of summer even more glorious.