Jewish World Review June 11, 2014 / 13 Sivan, 5774
Remember the real tomato?
By Paul Greenberg
JewishWorldReview.com | Homegrown tomatoes,
What'd life be without
Only two things that money
That's true love and
homegrown tomatoes . . .
Oh Boy, it's that time again!
The annual Pink Tomato Festival at
Because these days the genuine tomato -- Accept No Substitutes! -- is being driven out of the mass market by its archrival, a chemically implanted or genetically engineered simulacrum marketed under the good name of tomato. Nowadays the uninjected, unrouged tomato stands out like a good girl in a high-necked dress at a high school dance; only the discerning may appreciate her.
The Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival here in
Modern science can tell you every ingredient in the perfect tomato; they just can't make one in their laboratories, or even in
There are always those who won't learn, or who haven't had the chance to. They think those things at the grocery store -- the bright red softballs -- are tomatoes. No wonder they aren't thrilled by tomatoes. These children of a modern age have grown up on instant everything, and think patience is the name of a quaint old card game. They never sat on a back porch under an old revolving fan while, one after another, the perfectly prepared products of a family garden were set down with a solid plunk on a wooden table -- string beans, black-eyed peas, summer squash, okra, butter beans, chilled green onion and yes, rich, red, juicy, real tomatoes. With fresh cornbread, of course. And buttermilk.
Today the American consumer is fed neo-tomatoes wrapped in cellophane and tasting about the same. You know the kind. To quote that great American eater,
Time is the essence of the tomato -- as it is of many other things. Those who think industrial science can duplicate such an environment by harvesting tomatoes in the tens of thousands by some arbitrary date on the calendar, and running the poor things through 50-foot long chambers full of ethylene gas, then soaking them in brine through which sulfur dioxide has bubbled for days in order to keep them fresh ... well, there are no words to express the depth of their misapprehension.
These faux tomatoes aren't grown so much as processed. No true Arkie would ever sell a tomato before its time. Or, for that matter, use a dull knife, or -- horrors! -- put a tomato in a refrigerator to ripen, instead of setting it down ever so gently on the kitchen windowsill.
The latest quasi-tomato is the genetically altered kind. The new bio-neo-tomato eliminates all the Problem Areas in tomato marketing. Also the taste and scent of the real thing. This latest simulacrum of the real tomato is said to be imperishable -- like plastic. It's reported that chefs in
There may be other varieties that get good press, but there's no tomato so distinctive, so local and so awaited during the long, drab winter as -- ta-da! -- the Bradley County Pink. You can almost hear the fanfare when the first lug is opened. You know they'll be as succulent as they are ugly. For the worse these tomatoes look, the better they taste. That's the rule of (green) thumb with Bradley County Pinks.
As with books, you can't tell a tomato by its cover. When it comes to tomatoes, or humans for that matter, appearances can be deceiving.
In another example of Gresham's Law, which holds that bad currency drives out good, the best of tomatoes now has been reduced to a rarity found only in the boonies, like bootleg hootch. It says something about how poor in taste this rich country has become that the Bradley County Pink should be almost a secret outside of
I trust I'm not revealing any state secret when I tell you that a diet of
All those qualities are brought out, like the first blush of the tomato, only in the fullness of time. Time is the essence of tomatoes as it is of other good things. Like writing and love.
In these latitudes, the season is just beginning. And no amount of prose in praise of the tomato can compare to that first bite of the season. It's like the first sip of beer and taste of ballpark hot dog early in the season at a minor league ballpark. Local means flavorful.
For an early taste of the season, please consider this simplest, purest initiation into an
Then you'll know it's time.
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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