dThe day before we left Warsaw we were walking down the block with our hostess Anya when we passed a vegetable stand. There was a display of bright red tomatoes, and I said to my wife, “Honey, look at those tomatoes.”
She glanced over without breaking stride and said,
“Yes, they look very good.” Then she said something in Polish to Anya, and I caught Xavier and obsession.
“Are you telling Anya I’m obsessed with tomatoes, honey?” They both laughed, Anya speaks English and she got what I said.
Years ago I dated a woman who was a therapist and she told me an obsession is something you think about the moment you wake up. Well, I don’t get up every morning and think about tomatoes. But I guess I talk about them more than other people. If you read this blog regularly you can attest to that. But it’s more of a concern, a love, than an obsession. If I can’t find a good tomato I can still sleep at night.
Tomatoes are one of those foods that spoil fast and don’t travel well. They only taste good if they are grown in a field during the summer. At least here in the states.
In the winter you can get local hothouse tomatoes, and in my experience they are tasteless berries with a thick, inedible stem running through the center. They look pretty, and are perfectly formed, but you might as well eat a cardboard cut out of a tomato as far as what they taste like.
Danusia’s dad grew tomatoes, and she wrote a very funny and moving one-woman play called Tomatoes, so it’s a little funny we hooked up, given my concern and love of tomatoes. She herself doesn’t complain too much when served one of those rock-hard “pinkies” they like to put in restaurant salads.
Pinkies were developed to travel well and last a long time. They are hard and dry and tasteless, but you can get them year round. I hate pinkies, but mixed with good lettuce and other stuff and drowned in dressing I swallow my pride in the winter.
The first thing I noticed when we arrived in Kalisz, Danusia’s hometown was the abundance of good-looking tomatoes. And they tasted great.
“Where do they get these tomatoes, honey?”
“They are local, grown in greenhouses.” I was amazed. They tasted like they’d been grown in the hot August sun. I have never had a tomato that grew in a New York greenhouse taste anywhere near as good as these. So what’s the secret? Why are their tomatoes good and ours bad? Is it GMOs? Is it the water? The soil? I would really like to know. Any farmers or agricultural majors out there feel free to drop me a line.
I ate as many tomatoes as I could while in Poland. I had them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I wished I could stuff them into my suitcase and bring them back to New York with me. But I think there’s a law against that or something. I did manage a piece of smoked farmer’s cheese though.
The one thing that they did not have in Kalisz and that I missed dearly was avocadoes. It’s like they never heard of avocadoes in Poland, at least not in that part of Poland.
When we got to Warsaw we stayed in an Apartment-Hotel for a night. There was a large grocery store across the street from us, and they had avocadoes. I bought a green one; I always buy them green and let them turn black at home, and that way I don’t get a bruised avocado. I carried that avocado around for three days, and it never turned black. On my last day in Warsaw I gave it a little squeeze, sometimes they soften up but stay green. It gave a little, and I cut it open. It was still pretty hard inside.
I cut a piece off anyway and added it to my breakfast salad, hoping against hope it would taste ok, even if a little chewy.
Well, I’m sorry to report it was like eating a cardboard cut out of an avocado. But at least the tomato was good!
When I got back to the states the first thing I id was go shopping. I went to Fairway, and they had bins and bins of beautiful, bright red tomatoes. Against my better judgment, I bought two. They seemed juicy and had some give, I learned from some one at the Union Square greenmarket once how to hold a tomato in my palm and just apply a little pressure to see it it’s ripe. If you squeeze it you will bruise it. These seemed good, so I bought the. I also got an avocado, a ripe one that I could tell wasn’t all beat up.
When I cut the tomato open it was really watery inside, and the seeds were black. I tasted a piece and it didn’t taste good at all. Fooled again!
The avocado was good though. An avocado never tasted so good.