Making dinner tonight, I came a cross a tomato that my husband purchased last week while I was out of town. I call it a tomato only because I have no other words to label the pink-ish sphere I found in a plastic bag in the vegetable bin. I do not buy tomatoes when they are not in season; they make me sad in the same way that it used to make me sad to kiss someone who was not My Heart’s Desire. Tomatoes that have been trucked cross country and bred mainly for their tungsten-like durability cannot, and never will be the same as the warm, juicy, lumpy specimens that fill my summers with aching tenderness and poignant regard.
Being my father’s child, though, and hating to waste even something that should not, by all rights, exist, I decided to chop up the offending thing and add it to our salad. I cut it up, noticing that it looked something like a tomato, and then tasted a chunk. It had no flavor at all, not even a faint vegetal essence. I have accidentally bitten into wax fruit that tasted better. I scooped it all into the Dispos-All, feeling that I had done all that I could do in terms of thrift. I could want to use it, I could cut it into uniform chunks, but I could not eat any more of it on purpose.
My tomatoes will come again; even now their seedlings are being lovingly started in egg cartons in greenhouses and sunny windows at nearby farms. I will admire the heirloom varieties, tickle the little Zebras and stalk the perfect yellow Taxi for salads. I will buy bushels of soft, fragrant red tomatoes for homemade marinara, and, always, buy a bag of cherry tomatoes to pop into my mouth like candy on the way home from the market.
I should have known better. To every thing, there is a season, and this is not the time for tomatoes in Michigan. Whatever that was, it was not a tomato. It may have been some sort of ball, or a sample of space-age polymer, but it was not food and we are well rid of it.