Letting go of the Tomato

5e97eca652d9347f22c1375e586336f8Growing up in New Jersey, the tomato is kind of the state fruit.  In the summer time, everyone seems to grow and share them and throughout the year you just take it for granted you are eating them with the majority of your diet:  pressed into pizza, mixed up with meatballs, dressing chicken parmesan, drenching linguine, blanketing spaghetti, dancing with tortellini, baked in ziti, crushed up in chicken paprika, or sipped slowly over ice with a stick of celery in your spicy tomato juice cocktail.  Sigh.

Basically,  you are one with the tomato.

And that tradition I took moving to Washington all those years ago and found to my delight the Northwest also had a love of the tomato in kin with their Northeast brethren.

And then the biochemistry of age began to descend upon me, and certain foods and drinks I once loved no longer honored my physical being.  Letting go of each has been a process, and now, it seems, just in the last few weeks, the tomato is to be the next.  My body simply goes into extreme indigestion and manifests allergy-like symptoms after I have delighted in consuming the beloved “apple of gold”.

There was no warning for this, it just started to happen.  I’d enjoy my meal and then suffer the consequences.

My whole being cries out “Noooooo!  Not the tomato!”, but even as I write this, I can feel my gut sighing relief that it will have respite from the acidity that it no longer needs.

The world has more options for special diets:  gluten-free, meat-free, dairy-free, fat-free…but there is no substitute for the tomato.  No tomato-free or faux tomato products.  The recommendation is to remove them all from your diet and at some point gradually reintroduce them.  I can’t even think of that right now after several nights of such discomfort.  So, I sigh again and realize I have to say good-bye for now.

But not just any good-bye, this food has been a friend, a constant, and a companion to all the comfort foods I love so dearly.

So to do this properly, I offer this Solanum lycopersicum plant  the lovely poem by Pablo Neruda:

Ode To Tomatoes by Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes,
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it’s time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

copyright 2013 Eileen Dey

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