Category Archives: Food Irony

No more flavorless tomatoes

It’s tomato season and I should be happy about that, right? Certainly I am, but tomato season brings with it the disturbing reminder that most people don’t have a clue that tomatoes even have a season, a fact that was reinforced for me twice yesterday in a most ironic way.

First, I read this great piece about workers who pay the ultimate price for our insatiable desire for tomatoes and what one woman is doing to change that.  Then, I went to dinner last night at a nice restaurant that claims to use “the freshest possible local ingredients”, and while it served me grass-fed beef, it also served a firm, flavorless tomato that was barely pink -all the hallmarks of an industrially produced tomato-with a salad.  Why on earth, when tomatoes are everywhere right now, would a chef serve this abomination to local food?  Perhaps he chooses to cut that corner because he thinks that since most people are willing to eat that kind of tomato in winter, they’re willing to settle for it at any time of year.

How is this possible? Every summer I hear the same thing: people oohing and ahhing over fresh homegrown tomatoes and how wonderful they are and how much better they taste than tomatoes they eat in the winter.  You’d think people would get a clue and quit wasting their money on tomatoes in the winter.

I finally clued in a few years ago during my gastronomy course when our professor used the term “esculence”, which technically means suitable for eating, but her usage implied not only suitability, but perfection or a peak ripeness.  Learning that word was a game changer for me and I gradually quit buying fresh tomatoes during the winter.  And you know what? It was liberating, culinarily speaking, especially when it came to making salads.  In place of fresh tomatoes I used pears, dried cranberries, sweet mandarin slices, and-yes- even sundried tomatoes that were preserved when tomatoes were at their peak.  All of these fruits helped make the salads a wonderful change of pace from the run-of-the-mill garden salad with lettuce, tomato and cucumber that is ubiquitous because it requires so little thought.

But the best part about my wintertime tomato ban is looking forward to this time of year when we’re inundated with tomatoes of all different colors, shapes and flavors.  This summer, because Iwasn’t lulled into complacency by insipid winter tomatoes, I was one of the first people in line at the farmer’s market to buy the first homegrown tomatoes of the season.  I can honestly say I’ve savored every bite knowing that I’ll never eat a flavorless tomato again.

We’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid…

… so I find it kind of hard to blame a woman in Arkansas who accidentally served kids at her daycare windshield wiper fluid instead of Kool-Aid.  Of course, she can’t be the sharpest knife in the drawer if she’s stupid enough to put  wiper fluid in the fridge in the first place.

But still. Some of the Kool-Aid colors look positively radioactive.  I seem to remember one that was the color of antifreeze, so it seems entirely logical that one could mistake a household chemical for a kiddie cocktail.  And if an adult can make that mistake, how many clueless kids have been bamboozled?

If the color of some of these drinks doesn’t worry us, the names of the  flavors should at least give us pause: Purplesaurus Rex… Eerie Orange… Scary Black Cherry?  If you buy into that, you’re just asking for trouble.  Oh Yeah!

Frozen Foreshadowing?

I LOL’d when I pulled this out of the freezer at my parents’ house tonight.  Could any product have a name that better fits the current state of the food industry than this?  Not unless it was bagged spinach called “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Lethal”.

Thankfully, Blue Bunny’s Peanut Butter Panic hadn’t done the complicated food chain tango with the Peanut Corporation of America so we could eat it without wondering if we should also be making funeral plans.  And it tasted pretty good, too.

It’s dinner time in Rome. Do you know where your children are?

With Pope Benedict’s World Youth Day mass still ringing in the pilgrims’ ears, God may strike me down for this, but I can’t resist sharing something I found while researching the dining habits of the Pope and other residents of the Vatican.

It’s an entry from Frommer’s about dining in Rome:

Best for the Kids: After their tour of the Vatican or St. Peter’s, many savvy Roman families head for the Ristorante Il Matriciano, Via dei Gracchi 55 (tel. 06-3212327). It’s not fancy, but the price is right, and in summer you can opt for a sidewalk table. Let your kids feast on good, reasonably priced homemade fare that includes such crowd pleasers as ricotta-stuffed ravioli. At the next table you’re likely to see some priests from the Vatican dining.

Hmmm.  A kid friendly place that’s also a hangout for priests.  And it just gets better.  An entry for best al fresco dining on the same page mentions Roman Polanski.   Don’t the editors at Frommer’s do background checks on their writers or do they just fail to see the irony?