I find modern tomatoes incredibly upsetting. This isn’t because fruit, vegetable, what? Or because they’re from the poisonous nightshade family, have poisonous leaves, and yes I’ve been accidentally served poisonous pieces before that I had to pick out….no, it’s because of the tomato’s prevalence and complete corruption.
Similar to maize, tomatoes are a New World food the immigrants spread all over the planet and botched up. Once thought poisonous, tomatoes were golden orange and the size of grape tomatoes or smaller, held sacred in some ways by the Pueblo, and native in South and Central Americas. And, also like maize, it is everywhere. Think of a food and it’s likely in it. Tomatoes dice, a tomato slice, ketchup, salsa, spaghetti or pizza sauce, hot sauce,…
Tomatoes belong in Mexican cuisine, but Italian? It drives me crazy how the tomato builds the backbone of modern Italian cuisine. A restaurant in Uniontown, PA advertises the tomato as some holy grail of Italy and I simp laugh because it’s only been there since the 1500s. The Italian use of the tomato is like a slap in the face to natives and the effects of colonization, and now we have these bastard tomatoes to attest to that.
I love small, grape, tiny tomatoes. I hate big, grainy, gooey, pale tomatoes. I love Full English breakfasts with tomatoes roasted on the vine like I had at the White Cliffs of Dover one morning, courtesy of my gracious British host. Like maize, modern genetics have destroyed a once valuable, nutrient-rich native plant. Now, we buy tomatoes to serve our purpose – or more like we are sold tomatoes that maximize profit under the name of ideal cooking ingredients.
Not only are tomatoes an ethical minefield for how they’ve transformed, arrived, altered cultures, and been modified, they’re also a source of environmental ethics questions. It’s more environmentally friendly to grow tomatoes in Spain and ship them to England than to grow them in British greenhouses. The pizza sauce supplier for Dominos, as documented in Bet the Farm, dehydrates tomatoes to ship from California to the Ohio River for rehydration not for saving gas or whatever else but for making more money. Where has the value of a tomato even gone? And when was the last time you saw a ripe one anywhere but in a garden?
The tomato is in my opinion symbolic of American culture, and I wish the original tomatl could be widely revived.