On Saturday at the Mount Pleasant Farmerts Market we took a while making up our minds about the tomatoes. After looking at the boxes under the tables, many of them with stickers from the Lancaster Produce Auction, we decided to buy some heirloom tomatoes. It occurred to me afterward that the nominal price per pound is the same as I paid for flank steak thirty-five years ago.
The price turned out to be worth paying. While cutting up tomatoes for taboulleh, I told my wife that we finally had tomatoes that tasted like tomatoes. This may have been the first time it happened in a couple of years. These tomatoes probably refute our earlier notion that the heavy rains of June had weakened the flavor; the hybrids we get just aren't very good. Next summer we may have to try growing them.
When I was a boy, my family pulled down our garage, mostly from an expectation that it fall down on its own. Half we covered with flagstones, half became garden. Out of dirt soaked with oil and filings from crankcases, probably sown with old rusted nails, splinters, and bits of tire tread, we got excellent tomatoes. But I don't think that I was properly appreciative of them, though I must have been made to eat them in salads.
While I cut up the tomatoes Sunday, it occurred to me why I might have been unenthusiastic about the tomatoes. The texture is too complicated for a child's preferences, with skin, flesh, seeds, and juice. The great principle of kid food is consistency of texture: the best meat is hamburger or skinless, boneless chicken breast; the best fruit is an apple, quartered; the best vegetable the potato, baked, mashed, or fried. Homemade chicken soup, with irregular bits of meat and with bits of fat spotting the surface, is far inferior to Campbell's with perfect little cubes of chicken in homogenized broth.