Irrational Fears: The World of Tomato-Phobes

Many things can cause tension in a relationship—dirty socks on the floor, inappropriate Facebook updates, a love for the band Lucero—and food is certainly one of them.

For someone as omnivorous as me, it can be difficult to date a picky eater. One of my ex's didn't like condiments of any sort (he had an irrational fear of ketchup), another was perfectly happy downing a bag of salt-and-vinegar potato chips as a meal substitute. 

And I have known quite a few people in my life (my little brother included) with tomato issues. I don't understand this; tomatoes are awesome. I just think they've never had a good one. In this story, Amy Sullivan writes about overcoming her own distaste for one of nature's more splendid foods. Like many tomato-haters I've known, she used to draw arbitrary lines between what constituted "tomatoes" and what fell into a more acceptable category:

When I tell people I only recently started eating tomatoes, they are often shocked. "What about tomato sauce? You didn't eat ketchup??" Don't be silly. Those aren't tomatoes. Those are tomato products. A grilled cheese sandwich dipped in Campbell's tomato soup was my favorite lunch as a child. We had spaghetti with a jar of tomato sauce for dinner at least once a week. And ketchup was practically considered its own food group. We ate it on fish sticks and on scrambled eggs. My sister even added it to mashed potatoes. (She's always been weird.)

But those were smooth preparations in which the tomato was cooked down—its flavor altered and made more full-bodied—and blended into a silky tomato essence. The tomato itself posed a textural hurdle.

She eventually attributed her change of heart to realizing the wide gulf between commercial tomatoes and heritage varieties, left to ripen on the vine.

Then, one day last summer, I stood in a friend's kitchen while she finished preparing dinner. She had purchased some cherry tomatoes at a local farmers market that afternoon and set out a bowl of them for snacking—a bite-sized rainbow of fruity yellows, oranges, and reds. I popped one in my mouth and stopped. It didn't taste like any tomato I'd ever had. This was fresh, a crisp bite with a small punch of sweetness inside. I couldn't stop eating the miniature tomatoes that night and haven't looked back.

I hope this summer, tomato-phobes everywhere take the opportunity to give the sweet, tangy orbs another go. (Little Bro, I'm coming for you.) Once you cross over, it will be hard to imagine August without them.