Growing Pains

Over the years, many small things have contributed to the current craze of eating food that doesn’t want to kill or depress you — chips that give you diarrhea, french fries that do not rot, bacon-flavored cheese food product — but a big one has to be the tomato engineers. They took a lovely, complex fruit and turned it into a hard, industrial, flavorless vegetable, which growers plucked green and knobby so they could be shipped to supermarkets and presented to the public in pyramidal piles that could withstand a decent quake or infestation. Arthur Allen’s Ripe: The Search for the Perfect Tomato tells the story of the famous fruit, from the first cultivations in Mexico to its worldwide spread, along with the many, many ways people have messed with it to make it do what they wanted it to do, like ripen in a truck instead of on the vine. The supermarket variety marked the original “I’m mad as hell” moment for many protofoodies; find out how it got that way.
Sun., March 28, 3 p.m., 2010

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