The tomato vinesseven-footers that suckled round Italian Romas and thick clusters of yellow and red pear tomatoesare a twisted black heap at the back of our field. The season's last tomato was sliced, laid gently on a slice of semolina bread, dotted with black olive tapenade and thengone!
Already I am pining. Get clinical and call it a fruit-specific eating disorder; go highbrow and call it an epicurean quest. What my obsession boils down to is Tomato Lustin my case, long-standing and incurable. TL's closest parallel is love itself. As anyone who adores real in-season tomatoes can tell you, unspeakable effort goes into the seeking out, the courtship of sources, the obsessive hunt for perfection. But the rewards are sweet. The first touch of flesh to lips brings bliss. Joy, wantonness and overindulgence may follow. (I have been known to get what my family called "tomato rash" between my fingers.) And finally, as the first gassed-pink winter strumpets commandeer the market shelves, desolationthe end of the affair.
The romance analogy is nearly as old as the fruit itself: The tomato has long been called "the love apple" and "the amorous apple." We have had a tempestuous relationship with it since the 1500s, when the Spanish conquistadors first brought this divine food back to Europe from Mexico. As members of the occasionally deadly nightshade family, tomatoes also suffered periodic slur campaigns, with some seventeenth-century herbalists declaring them corrupt, non-nourishing and poisonouslike certain forms of love.