Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On Wendy's, Hanover Tomatoes, and Kroger's


Tuesdays are when I usually trek to Kroger's (Senior Citizen 10% discount even applies to young old people like me). And one of the first things when I walk in is the produce department, and sitting smack in front of everything are tomatoes. Large pinkish-red ones, little ones in plastic clamshells or mesh bags.

It being March here in Richmond, suffice to say they are not local tomatoes. I'll buy the grape tomatoes sometimes, because they do have something like tomato flavor and because I miss the tart-sweet bite of them. But they are not REAL tomatoes.

Here in Richmond, the ne plus ultra of tomatoes are the Hanover tomatoes that come in in late June and are celebrated at the Hanover Tomato Festival in July (a sociological experience all its own).

Now, Hanover tomatoes aren't a specific variety, they are simply tomatoes grown in Hanover county. Something in the soil and water makes them wonderful. The kind of tomatoes you just want to slice on a plate, if you haven't just eaten it out of hand in the garden, sprinkle with a tad of kosher salt, or Duke's mayo if you're a Southern purist, and slurp with delight. They taste nothing like the tomatoes at the Kroger's. Apologies, Kroger's. I like you as a supermarket very much.

Driving through Wendy's yesterday - it was that kind of day, and I was starving - I came upon a sign that said that tomatoes are in short supply, so if I wanted a slice of tomato on my burger, I'd have to specifically request one. Well, I strongly suspect that the tomatoes that they have are from far, far away. Definitely not Hanover tomatoes, or even Jersey tomatoes (the Platonic ideal of tomatoes in my childhood in the Garden State). Probably Mexican tomatoes, grown to travel, and yes, rather pricey, even when Wendy's buys them in bulk.

Those Wendy's tomatoes weren't grown for taste. They were grown to put a slice of something red on top of a burger made with beef that wasn't necessarily grown for taste either. They put some salt and assorted condiments on it, along with plasticine yellow cheese, and that's where the taste comes from, such as it is.

I got the $1 burger. Hunger trumped noble food virtue. I didn't ask for the tomato. Lenten renunciation? I think not. Just no point in eating a tomato like that, for a whole variety of reasons, either from Wendy's or from Kroger's.

I'm holding out for June, and those Hanover tomatoes. Dreaming of them, in all their tomatoe-y deliciousness.

Now if I could only get past my craving for asparagus that has to come to us from Peru...

1 comment:

R Ellen said...

I rarely purchase tomatoes out of season (unless canned). Once in a while, in the spring, tomatoes come via California. That's a little closer to home (VA) than South America. I appreciate your reflection on the Wendy's tomato. Sometimes just a plain burger is better in season than one with a tasteless tomato out of season.