My early tomato experiences were not good ones. My mother adored what seemed to me to be far-too-large berries that were not particularly sweet. I mean, I thought if you saw a blueberry that big, why would you eat it?
There was also the rather prominent issue of the insides. You cut it open and the thing just looked embryonic. Like it was hardly finished with all sorts of goo and seeds.
I would however begrudgingly accept the tomato into my life, most appropriately in a burger of course, to appease my mother’s ardent wish that I share her tomato joy.
Having grown up on a farm, she was far more oriented to fresh vegetables than was I, having been raised the suburban lad that I was.
So, thus began my trek to tomato acceptance in my life.
Once I hit my late teens, they seemed to taste different. Even there was a nostalgia I associated with them, and my efforts to like them bore fruit, so to speak.
Other vegetables, like asparagus and broccoli even became much more palatable. I was told once by a visiting professor that once humans hit puberty, their oxalid receptors in their tastebuds tone down. This aversion to green vegetables and the like is a childhood protection mechanism apparently, so kids do not eat dodgy plants.
Once I began cooking regularly at university (I did not have money for restaurants!), the tomato and I had become fast friends, being versatile and a major source of vitamin C and more.
My sauce Bolognese would suffer without them, as of course did all Italian food before their wider introduction in the early 1700s. They were introduced to Europe after the rather sad exploits of the Conquistadors, from around the Yucatan peninsula from memory.
Can you imagine any European cuisine without tomatoes? They were a New World import, and much like me as a child, were considered poisonous by most for generations before they caught on.
Sometimes I sigh and say, “I just want to grow tomatoes at a little country cottage,” when the stresses and pressures of work and life become a bit much.
Ever my fast friend now, the tomato delights me almost daily, whether just on some toasted bread with goat cheese, olive oil and basil, or in a Bolognese or other sauce.
Whether tending tomatoes in the garden, or spending time with them cooking and ruminating about my day, my life, I have become most grateful for their presence.
My acceptance of the tomato in my life has been a journey of understanding and the realisation that resisting for the point of resisting is quite silly.
Given how utterly delicious is the tomato!
I have posted some of my favourite recent tomato photos in the Foodies Group — please have a look and feel free to comment!