I have hated tomatoes as long as I can remember. Even as a child I cursed the name of that imp from hell who decided tomatoes should go on everything: cheeseburgers, salads, sandwiches, pizza — all ruined by this filthy vegetable. If a tomato touched one leaf of my salad, I didn’t just disregard that particular leaf, I jettisoned the entire quadrant. If there was only one pizza to be eaten, and every single piece had a slice of tomato on it, I would grab one and use my napkin to wipe that mother down until the crust showed. In college I tried to eat a cherry tomato at a party and wound up dry heaving in front of a bunch of hot chicks. Hell, even at 2am — drunk as tits and baked like a cake — I would still pick the tomato chunks out of my Taco Bell. I haaaaaaaaaated tomatoes. HATED THEM.
It’s wasn’t just the taste, and it’s wasn’t just the texture; it was the one-two punch of taste and texture. I mean, tapioca pudding has about the same mouthfeel as fish eggs and glue, but it tastes awesome. And Brussels sprouts taste like straight up poison, but they feel like baby cabbages dying inside your mouth, so they’re kinda fun. No, tomatoes ruined my day in every way they possibly could; by tasting like bloody, organic battery acid with the texture of jellied eyeballs wrapped in foreskin. God dammit! What a perfectly engineered adversary!
But in order to truly hate something, you have to be at least a little bit afraid of it, right? Isn’t that how loathing works? I honestly don’t know what tomatoes ever did to me to earn such scorn, but it must have been awful. Like, in some alternate universe, I’m probably stuck on a planet populated entirely by tomato people, and they just love to smear themselves across my naked body all day long and then fart in my mouth. It’s how they celebrate Christmas.
The point is, I’ve avoided tomatoes my entire life… until now. This past summer, I finally decided to get serious and shake hands with the red devil. And it’s not just because I moved to Germany; it’s because my wife and I live in a house with an actual yard in the back, giving us enough space to have a garden where we can grow our own vegetables. Oh, I know what my fellow tomato haters are thinking about now: “Here comes the part where you tell us fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes are different from every other tomato we’ve ever eaten. And that is stone-cold bullshit.”
You’re right; if you really can’t stand the sumbitches, it won’t matter where you get ’em. Do you know how many times my friends and family members have told me that if I just ate this one, special, super organic, jerked-off-by-Mexicans, magic tomato, it would change my attitude forever? Millions. Okay, not millions — probably closer to 5 or 6 times — but still. I understand your pain.
I’ve tried to like tomatoes. I wanted to stop fighting the good fight, but I just couldn’t do it. They were too gross. Then my wife and I started a garden, and I made two decisions:
- I would eat one tiny piece of tomato every single day until I learned to like it.
- These tomato pieces would only come from our own garden, because that’s supposed to make them taste less horrid.
And that’s exactly what I did. I slowly acclimated myself to tomatoes like a sickly goldfish in hot water. At first I was like, “NOPE. THEY STILL SUCK. THIS SUCKS.” But gradually my knee-jerk reaction weakened. I stopped gagging and was able to actually chew and swallow small pieces of raw tomato. And you know what really made the difference? The fact that when I plucked a ripe tomato right from the vine in our own garden, brought it inside, cut it up and ate a piece, it tasted sweet. Sweet like sugar — I shit you not. I’d never experienced that before! Not even from fresh tomatoes picked in the exact same way and placed in front of me at a friend’s house. Eating my own tomatoes was the key, and it actually became a pleasant experience.
Another thing which really helped were my wife’s Caprese salads. She loves ’em, but I could only ever eat the mozzarella and basil before. Now, I eat the whole thing, and the best part — I can’t believe I’m saying this — is the tomato. It’s what really ties the dish together. I’ve even graduated to eating burgers and salads with tomatoes on them, and they don’t even have to come from our own garden! (God, I seriously feel like a heathen or a traitor to my country or something.)
I’m not saying tomatoes are the greatest thing in the world, but it’s really nice not to have to pull them off everything I order at a restaurant. It’s like I’ve been at war my entire life, and I’m just now experiencing my first ceasefire. I’m not fool enough to stick my head up out of my foxhole and declare my love for the enemy just yet, but I’m not going to snipe their commanding officer either.
To be fair, I still can’t bite down on a cherry tomato without a good old fashioned dry heave — oh my Christ, the seeds just spurt inside your mouth without warning, like a rude sailor — but maybe someday I’ll get there. Maybe. In the meantime, I must grudgingly award tomatoes with a slightly nauseous 3 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds:
Thank you for reading and have a great day!