Cornish Engineering

Cornish Engineering (2007)


November 4, 2005 at 2 PM

I Say Tomato

As seen on TV: tomatoes! I think this photograph captures the essence of the early-21st-century consumer’s dilemma.

A trend that I only noticed in its infant stage in Canada is in full, nasty, brutish adolescence here in Britain. Vegetables and fruit at the supermarket are packaged in plastic. You can choose not to buy pre-packaged vegetables of course, but when you go the supermarket, the non-packaged ones also happen to be the ho-hum, bland ones. Take tomatoes for instance. Supermarket tomatoes are usually awful. Completely devoid of flavour and they’re usually mushier than a Very Special Episode of Growing Pains. The worst offenders are those gargantuan nuclear-waste beefsteak tomatoes from California with barely a blush of red. They’re like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Long Goodbye — completely out of proportion to normal, and completely forgettable. (Okay, so maybe I’m reaching a bit for my metaphors today.)

Sometime in the not-so-distant past, the supermarkets figured out that people might like eating real tomatoes. Small, firm, tasty ones. Cherry tomatoes, and tomatoes ripened “on the vine”. And so they sell those now too, but they cost about five times as much, and they’re packaged in plastic so that they can put flowery marketing prose all over them and so you don’t realize how few tomatoes you’re actually buying until you get home and take them out of the deceptively-arranged package. Sainsbury’s sells about ten different types of tomatoes now. Evidently Tesco has had its wonderful tomatoes featured on a TV program. That’s how good they are. (“Say friend, remember how tomatoes used to taste?”)

I was saying the other day to someone how it’s so hard to find different varieties of apples. Turns out Tesco also sells some unusual varieties if you’re willing to pay a premium. But they’re packaged. Four apples on a little foam plate, covered in plastic wrap. Apples! These things are supposed to be kept in big wooden crates in a shed. Why do you think they have to charge so much for the apples? Because they have to pay someone to wrap them up, four at a time!

I’m thrilled that I can buy tasty tomatoes and unusual apples, even if they cost most of my salary. Good tomatoes make salads worth eating. But must I also pay with my soul as well as my money? Nottingham doesn’t even have recycling boxes, so all of the packaging just ends up in a landfill. I’m pretty sure the plastic doesn’t improve the taste.

And I don’t even own a TV.


You say, "Supermarket tomatoes are usually awful." I'd like to revise this sentence by removing a couple unnecessary words: Tomatoes are awful. ;)

Patrick, November 5, 2005 good you mean?

— Luke, November 10, 2005

Try going to a local farmer's market for fresh delicious veggies.No plastic wrap included and don't forget to bring your own reusable grocery bag.

— May, November 11, 2005

I wish it were that easy. There is a farmer's market in Nottingham, but it's only once a month and it's quite small, and actually, they just closed the square it's in for construction so it seems to have disappeared. Farmer's markets seem to be an endangered species in this corner of England.

— Luke, November 11, 2005

I have one word for you, my ready-for-conversion friend: organics. - one of them even specializes in gluten-free foods for Attagirl! e P.S. Your website's banner is doing funny things in my Safari browswer when I scroll down.

Emma Davis, November 13, 2005

Come back to Canada and buy organic. Be natural!

— George, November 20, 2005

What about a food-share program? My house gets a crate of veggies and fruit from a local food-share program in Toronto delivered to us once a week. You can get organic or non-organic, and they try to get as much local produce in as possible. You know, to support local farmers and not burn gallons of oil per kiwi to import from malaysia.

Adam, February 19, 2006

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