Letter from the Editor

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My kingdom for a vegetable

Pssssst, buddy. Are you holding? No, I'm not an FDA cop. I don't usually do this, you know - hanging out in a back alley to make an illegal buy. I can't help myself. I just need a little to hold me over, man, and tomorrow I'll go cold turkey.

Is this what we're coming to? Tomatoes as the next illegal drug? Pushers with baggies of Red Romas - fifty bucks an ounce? (The first one is free!)

I seldom really paid attention to tomatoes. Nice enough to have if it came on your sandwich, I guess, but it's just another vegetable in the stack, something to toss on the salad. A guy doesn't make a big point of thinking about it.

Until somebody tells him he can't have them.

Oh, yes, it is a different story now. I gaze longingly at the commercials for the gourmet hamburger chains - the kind of places that charge $12.95 for a burger as if the cow was royalty or something, places located on the ritzy fashion end of the mall that I would never imagine eating at.

But there, in the center of that high definition sandwich, is that rich, robin's breast red, achingly thick, juicy slice of wonderful tomato that I so long for. If you press your face right against the screen, you can just make out the tiny beads of fresh, cool water beading up on its smooth skin from a fresh washing.

Somebody bring the Windex, there's drool to be wiped off the TV here. Sorry Best Buy, next time I'll do this in my own house.

I don't know that I have ever purchased a bag of tomatoes at a grocery store, either, but now I stand in front of the empty bins and I feel so... so... cheated. Denied. Robbed of my culinary constitutional rights.

Look, this store chain sells shotguns for goodness sake, and it is telling me that it can't handle the liability of selling me something as dangerous as a tomato?

The fast food joint that serves a bacon-mayo-buttered-bun greaseburger with 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat, enough to drop a charging rhino in its tracks, is going to tell me that it's taking away my tomato slice for my own protection?

Salmonella? What are you talking about - who ordered fish? I just want a tomato. Look if it doesn't bother me that this dude back here in the cute fast food uniform is touching my lunch with his bare mitts that have been who-knows-where, I'm not going to be squeamish about a salmonella germ or two.

C'mon, counter girl - what are you, 12? Here's a buck, go buy yourself some Clearasil, and give me a slice of tomato. I've lived a full life, I've made my peace, I am prepared to take my chances and live dangerously. Tomato me.

Have you ever tried to eat a drive-through chalupa without the tomato pico filling? It's like chewing a dry sweatsock.

A veggie pizza without tomatoes? Borders on blasphemy. And a hamburger minus the tomato - it lacks color, personality, tang, completion... it's got no soul. And where's the money off for the lacking ingredient, huh? It's just not right, I tell you, it's just not right.

So you, Mr. Storm Lake Farmer's Market Gardener fellow, what are you waiting for? Get out there and grow some tomaters, and grow 'em fast.

Inject them with some nuclear DNA, spray them with steroids, play some Bach CDs for them, whatever it takes, bro. Just have those puppies ready for me next Saturday.

I need a peanut butter and tomato sandwich on wheat, with a dash of salt and a big glass of chocolate milk.

Heck, I need tomato pancakes, tomato milkshakes, a can of tomato Pepsi, whatever. Don't even slice it, I'll just eat it like an apple, I've got some catching up to do.

Just like children, the more you tell us we can't have something, the worse we want it. And right now, I want a tomato on my darn burger.

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato."

- Lewis Grizzard


The Buena Vista Raceway may have been onto something when it added the Sport Compact Car racing class this season.

With the price of gas, NASCAR may soon be running Mini Coopers and the Daytona 500 will likely be changed to 500 feet. Indy should take about a week to run with Toyota Tercells and Honda Civics. NHRA drag racing will probably pit golf carts racing for pinks.

BVR got into little cars so that younger kids could begin racing on the cheap. They probably didn't envision that the day would soon come when the half a tank of unleaded in the car would be worth more than the car itself.

Next season, maybe some bicycle racing. Or we could have pit crews race to push their cars around the track in the Gas Saver Special. And we'll need very long sidewalks so that fans will be able to walk to Alta.

Iowa lottery ticket prizes may be measured in gallons instead of dollars, too.

One thing, though. OPEC is teaching America how to walk, bike and carpool so that we need less and less of their product. How's that going to come out for them in the end?