Check out this interview with Barry Estabrook about his new book, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agricultural Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. I read Estabrook’s original article in Gourmet back in 2009 and remember writing something about it at the time. I vowed then not to buy another “fresh” tomato in the grocery store, and I haven’t. In winter I just buy the best canned tomatoes I can find — we do not eat summer salads in the winter anyway. The story of the tomato is a story that is repeated in this and many other countries on farms that raise many of the fruits and vegetables that are sold in local grocery stores, including the high-end stores selling “organic” produce.
I was also thinking the other day about something else that just came to me out of the blue. With all of the marketing power that the major food companies can bring to bear on introducing a new item or a new version of something they already sell, why can’t they just stop making the unhealthy versions of soups and crackers and cookies and sodas, and especially the prepared foods and meals and other baked goods? I don’t doubt that it would cost money up front to do this because of the education effort involved, but if someone or some agency of government brought them together and demonstrated how much money this country (and the companies) would save in health-care costs over the next 50 years — and how much they would eventually save over time by not having to produce so many versions of every product — they could just agree to do it and not even tell us. They fooled us into eating the bad stuff for years; how hard could it be to convince us to buy and eat the good stuff?
If you read this newsletter last week, you know that I mentioned an old hotel that had been built in the mountain community called Rawley Springs just west of Harrisonburg near the West Virginia border. I did learn more about its very interesting history over the holiday weekend, and I will share that with you next week when I hear from my cousin who copied down the wording of an advertisement from 1886 about the hotel.
Last on the list of random thoughts for the day — please check out the prices of the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes at the markets this week. Nowhere in any store are you going to find just-picked heirlooms for no more than $1 difference in price from the regular tomatoes. These are tomatoes that are ready to eat now, and they make the best tomato sauce, better than any you will ever eat in any restaurant. They have also been picked by the guy who is selling them to you, so you only have to ask about how they were grown. And don’t forget you can buy good old beefsteak tomatoes too at a great price from the farmer himself. These are what you want in your salad and on your burger or sandwich, right next to a little tuna salad or even on top of macaroni and cheese. But if you are going to try that uncooked tomato sauce, try a mix of heirloom tomatoes and swoon.
See you at the market!
Photo by ndrwfgg