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Tomatoes and the Meaning of Life


To me, tomatoes have always been like people: often around, but rarely worth knowing. Still, there have a been a few in my life that struck me with such goodness that I haven’t given up on them. When I was younger, I had one during a bachelor party at the Commander’s Palace, in New Orleans, that still lives in my mind. It animated my mouth with such a fury that I thought I’d be speaking in tongues soon. I might not have been making sense at that dinner for other reasons, the euphoria of youth being the most powerful one.

When I do the shopping for the family these days, I so often feel like I’m under such time pressure—to move the car, to get back to the house, to get to work—that I move rapidly and grab the first things I see. This sounds like a very silly strategy, but I’m no fool. I shop almost excessively at a local food coop, where the prices are low (there’s only a mark up to cover overhead) and the produce flies off the shelf faster than the anxious thoughts move through my head. Everything is there is fresh.

Shuffling down the aisle of the Coop recently and looking for tomatoes, I grabbed a box of Village Farms Sinfully Sweet Camparis. It was a reckless move, for I don’t know if I can go back to any other tomatoes. These things are summer in every bite. Turns out that they are grown in hydroponic greenhouses in a small town in West Texas called Marfa. I have good friends who live in Marfa, which sits on a plateau in the Chihuahan Desert, and it is a strange and fascinating place of “Mystery Lights” and minimalist art installations. To that I have to add the best tomatoes I’ve tasted in a long time, especially in winter.

I sliced a few on Sunday morning, and added them to an omelet of goat cheese, ham, and parsley. That sounds simple, but as I was preparing it, I was in the midst of doing five loads of laundry (we live in an apartment building), making breakfast for the kids, and and cooking black beans, tagine, and Bolognese. I had a lot going on, and I couldn’t sit and eat my omelet when it was ready. By the time I got back to it, the thing was so sorry-looking that I can’t even use the photograph of it here. But the cheese was so rich, the ham so savory, and the parsley so sharp that everything was all right. And the tomatoes were so bright, that they made me feel young again.

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