Monday, 12 April 2010

Tomatoes when they are red

Maybe I don't shop in the right places. Maybe the local suppliers are just a sorry bunch. But it is months now since I saw a real, half-decent selection of tomatoes for sale. Tomatoes, you say. He hasn't blogged for almost two weeks and he comes back to speak about tomatoes? Well, silence, pale prosamaniac! I will come to my weighty point in a little while. In any case, these are the essential things.

I know, of course, tomatoes are only in season from March to November, so no wonder I have not seen any for a while. But even in season we only find a mere handful of varieties in the average supermarket or even market stall. People think they're being exotic if they get 'vine ripened' Whoopy do! Cherry and plum tomatoes are somehow regarded as the latest in outré exoticism.

But what about the coeurs de boeufs? Or black tomatoes? What about simple yellow cherries? No, we in Great Britain feel we have been daring if we deploy one of those red, watery, salad pingpong balls, mixed in with the iceberg lettuce and cucumber rings. It makes me want to weep. It really does.

But herein is a grand metaphor of our current times, is there not? We have rationalized our national life, as we have rationalized our tomatoes; we have standardized our mediocrity, as we have standardized our salad ingredients; we have narrowed down our variety in a grand show of conformity that is both cultural and culinary. If only we had remained hobbits with a love of growing things.

Of course there is a drift back in the opposite direction - a direction not abandoned by some - but only a little. We take our varieties now in shop-made boxes; we reclaim our individualism in ready-made packages. Anything else would be too expensive. Have we have been priced out of originality? Out of authenticity?

Well, I suppose we have up to a point. Still, there is nothing to stop us doing our own thing in our own back gardens, at least for the time being, even if these things are always more easily advocated from the comfort of the sofa (or our blog) than in real life. Armchair quarter backs; armchair culture. How did we come to this?

That's a long way from tomatoes, but I think I'm onto something.


  1. You want Matthew's greengrocer's on Partington Street for decent tomatoes!

  2. Cucumber rings??? What are they when they're at home??

  3. Partington Street! Now that takes me back. Got beaten at cricket AND football there while playing for St Mary's.

    Mac, I think I meant cucumber slices, but since you can slice a cucumber in a number of ways ... hmmm, welll, I think I was a bit 'tired and emotional' when I wrote that!