Last week in Tel Aviv, two international journalists and bloggers gave an excellent talk on the impact of bloggers on today’s media. The speakers were Lisa Goldman and Alison Kaplan Sommer, who is the Middle East editor at Pyjamas Media. We were all very stimulated, asking lots of questions. Towards the end of the conference, a lady raised her hand and asked Lisa,
“How do I know that people will read my blog?”
“If you write well, people will notice your blog and read it,” Lisa said. “Unless you’re writing about…tomatoes, or something.” Then her eyes widened in embarrassment, remembering that a food blogger was present.
“No one can argue with my slow-roasted tomatoes,” I said, smiling. Lisa is cool; I knew she hadn’t meant to knock anyone.
“We’ll talk about my stuffed tomatoes, sometime,” said Lisa, showing she was with me. Folks laughed, and the moment passed.
But the next day, cooking for Shabbat, I pondered. Beside the breaking news and high-powered politics, tomatoes did look…trivial. What, I asked myself gloomily, do tomatoes really matter – in the larger frame?
Some people hate tomatoes. Others don’t think about tomatoes at all unless their price goes up. Then you get an earful while you’re standing by the vegetables at the supermarket. Shoppers critically turn each tomato over and kvetch out loud about the high price and low quality. Middle-aged ladies do this the best.
Yet tomatoes seem to the most-consumed vegetable in the Israeli diet. I myself have blogged about a batch of slow-roasted tomatoes that turned into tomato coins. Would falafel look anywhere near as appetising without the red accent of chopped tomatoes? And how about shakshoukah, eh? Not to mention spaghetti sauce.
Consider how good tomatoes are for your health. Alison’s article discusses how eating tomatoes helps prevent cancer. Another article claims that the juicy red fruit lowers blood pressure. And if you like reading lab results, this abstract proves that eating lots of tomatoes raises good cholesterol.
Tomatoes are cultural. Andy Warhol’s iconic cans of tomato soup are part of everyone’s subconscious reaction to the words “pop art.” George Gershwin’s well-loved song lyrics, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” have a couple quarreling over how to pronounce tomato. Hey, here’s a whole list of songs about tomatoes. Cheering up, I recalled one of my favorite light-reading books: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. It has a recipe for those fried green tomatoes in the back, too. And it was made into a great movie.
At mealtime, tomatoes star in countless dishes, both savory and sweet. Sweet? Yes, I have made tomato jam from yellow cherry tomatoes, and it was delicious. When summer is at its hottest and the piles of luscious tomatoes at the shuk are so tempting, I haul kilos of them home and make potfuls of garlic- and basil-laced spaghetti sauce. I’ve even made tomato wine. Ah, tomatoes…
I feel better now.
Not only to me, but to lots of people.
Well, I’m getting hungry. Here’s a great, simple tomato recipe.
Tomatoes a la Creme serves 6
Take 6 tomatoes and cut them in half. Pierce the sides of the tomatoes with a knife in two or three places.
Melt some butter in a frying pan, and in the melted butter, put the tomatoes, cut side down. Keep the flame low, and let the tomato halves cook for 5 minutes.
Turn them over and cook a further 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Agitate the pan now and then to keep them from sticking.
Turn the tomatoes over again, and allow to cook a few minutes more.
Turn them over for the last time, and season again, lightly.
The tomatoes should have released much of their juices at this point. Pour in 3 oz. of cream, and only allow it to heat through before serving the tomatoes, very hot.
Please resist the urge to dress this dish up with shallots, basil, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, or anything else. This dish is meant to bring you the full, delicious flavor of the tomatoes, nothing else.