Saturday, February 18, 2006

M-m Not Good

What do you do about tomatoes in the dead of winter?
For a tomato ranchin' bum who can't stop talking about the things, I've surprised myself by discovering I don't crave them now.
We have bags and bags of frozen, roasted tomato sauce, and we've barely made a dent in them.
Even though my cherry tomatoes were still ripening on the patio as late as January 1, I had already begun to lose my lust for them.
Today I had a bagel with cream cheese and Nova. Now, I'm not even going to begin to complain about the quality of the bagel, because in Northern California, my expectations in that department have been dashed permanently. Like an abused dog, I've come to believe I deserve beatings crappy bagels.
The salmon was good, though, and the cheese and paper-thin red onion just right. But why on earth were there slices of tomato on that thing? The tomato was your typical pale-orange, watery, odd-textured Out Of Season variety, with a special twist: It tasted simply terrible. One bite, and I yanked all the rest of the slices out of the bagel. The flavor was like bug spray: chemical-y, sickly, frightening.
Without hammering on the poor counterman who assembles the bagels, or the store manager, or even the owners of the bagel chain that this outfit is a part of, I will make one assumption: People expect a fresh tomato in certain preparations, no matter what the calendar says. They will ignore all physical sensations of revulsion while devouring it. Because they want it.
There are better and there are worse representatives of out-of-season tomatoes. The bite I had today was surely the worst.
The better representatives are probably imported from the Southern Hemisphere, or else hothouse-grown.
Last year I enjoyed some early-summer hothouse tomatoes, grown locally. They were good. It was almost real tomato-harvesting time, so it didn't seem weird to be appreciating an incubator-bred cousin of the real thing.
Right now, though, mid-February, I just don't feel the need to satisfy a craving for a fresh tomato. The craving is not there.
But. Damn! That crappy tomato stirred something deep inside me. It made me twitchy for the return of spring and summer foods. Asparagus is already in the markets, as well as new onions. I'm beginning to dream up spring egg dishes, made with young cheese.
Tonight, however, the temperature is expected to go down to freezing. And I have half a carton of cream in the fridge. Add that to a bag or two of frozen tomato sauce... Gosh, I guess a whole week of cheese-sandwich-blogging put a little bug in my ear: I want tomato soup!


kudzu said...

Fodrive me -- but where does the concept of tomato on bagel with nova come from? I can (almost) allow the thinly sliced red onion, but -- Honey, that addition could get you in trouble in Manhattan.

Yes, this wintertime has gone on and on. You're really sensitive (and sensible) to avoid "fresh" tomatoes now. I almost caved this week when I smelled one of the Chilean nectarines and a-l-m-o-s-t bought it but the feel of it was all wrong, it was too tight-skinned and not giving back the proper surrender of possible ripeness.

Tomato soup is fine. Spring onions and new garlic and skinny asparagus are all turning up, thankfully. (And we have key limes and Seville oranges now!)

We just have to hold on and survive till warmth returns.

cookiecrumb said...

I guess tomatoes on a bagel with nova is pretty Californian, like the hamburger "California-style" served back east that always has tomato and lettuce.
However, I was introduced to it by my Jewish girlfriend (who was best woman at my wedding), and she's from Massachusetts... [OK, that's not Manhattan. :P ]
But kudzu, when it's good, it's good!
Hey! We have key limes? Where, at Civic Center?
Key lime and/or sour orange juice... and/or old sour... with fish 'n' grits!
I actually saw two glimmers of sun today, even though it's so cold and wet out there. Hang on.

mrs d said...

What is this "Nova" thing? Surely not salmon from the Atlantic? (::shudder::)

Monkey Gland said...

Thinking about Spring? That seems a long way away right now, it's raining and it's grey here in London and frankly frikkin' freezing.

Erin Eats said...

There are few things that taste worse than mealy, out of season tomatoes. I'm a huge tomato fan, (I add them to half the meals I cook) so I find that home-canned tomatoes are the best substitute when you want something that tastes fresh and doesn't taste like.. well, you know.

Kevin said...


I'm with you on those nasty things you get out of season. But even in season finding good tomatoes isn't easy -- even in CA -- unless you grow your own.

BTW, have you ever been to the asparagus festival in Stockton?

kudzu said...

I saw Key limes in a supermarket, in little bags (can't remember whether it was Albertson's or another) -- and at Mill Valley Market. MVM also has Seville oranges. It's a pricey but convenient (for me) stand-in for excellent produce. I have never had a bad vegetable or piece of fruit from the Canepas, and sometimes things are from their own gardens.

I'll forgive (not fodrive) you the tomato on the bagels, but only just. I had to get used to them on burgers and now expect them. And when they are ripe and glorious I could eat them on anything at anytime.

Goldfinches are all over my yard this morning -- maybe it IS getting warmer.

KathyR said...

I love tomatoes on my bagel. Cream cheese, a thin slice of tomato and black pepper. Yum.

Catherine said...

I like cucumber on my bagels ...and tomato and red onion, open-faced. Salmon has to be on the side.

Clare Eats said...

I think we are lucky in Australia as the top of the country tomatoes don't go out of season. That doesn't mean that we get bad tomatoes, you can get them all year if you want. Here Ii find that often the cherry tomatoes are the best option offseason.

Clare Eats said...

I think we are lucky in Australia as the top of the country tomatoes don't go out of season. That doesn't mean that we get bad tomatoes, you can get them all year if you want. Here Ii find that often the cherry tomatoes are the best option offseason.

cookiecrumb said...

yes, Clare, the equator must be the best place in the world for tomatoes!
Also, Cranky and I usually depend on cherry tomatoes off-season.
Puuu, what a shock to have that taste of icky peculiar tomato in my mouth the other day.
It's still winter here in CA, but I'm just minutes away from bugging my local nursery for tomato plants.
AND! my blogging pal Jen gave me heirloom tomato seeds today! xxxxx

cookiecrumb said...

Kevin: Have not ever been to the asparagus festival, though as a calendar editor for a newspaper food section, I often flogged it. I remember saying things like "Don't cast aspersions on asparagus." No wonder I got fired.
Anyway, thanks for the reminder. It's in late April this year, and with Cranky and me not working, I guess we'll go!

Catherine: Cucumber! Wow.