Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bad season for tomato haters

August 31

When the publicist from the Peanut Advisory Board sees an interesting peanut item on a menu, she feels compelled to try it. It's her job, after all. And often she invites me along. It's expense-able, after all.
So last night we went to Blue Hill, the one in the West Village, not the one upstate, for the chocolate bread pudding with salted caramel, roasted peanuts and cinnamon ice cream, which the publicist had learned about from reading a rave by Frank Bruni.
Blue Hill's chef, Dan Barber, not only is a big advocate of seasonal and sustainable stuff, but also, being a savvy guy, he is a regular reader of Nation's Restaurant News. He wasn't in the restaurant that evening, but he nonetheless had given orders to start us out with glasses of Champagne. I love it when that happens. We also got a mid-course bonus of heirloom tomato salad with cucumber, watermelon and basil.
I have what I consider to be a genetic defect: I hate most raw tomatoes. They taste toxic to me. Cook a tomato and I love it, but there's some enzyme or something in a raw tomato that either my taste buds or olfactory receptors (probably the latter) register as poisonous.
This is true, I found out by conducting an informal study, of about half of the men matrilineally descended from my own maternal great-grandmother, Dora Melman. [Skip the next paragraph if you don't care about the details of the tomato preferences of my male cousins].
Great uncle Dave Melman, one of three boys, hated tomatoes. First cousin Tom Kornfeld, middle son of my mother's sister, hates tomatoes of any shape or form — I think his daughter Naomi does too, actually — and so does second cousin once-removed Adam Rosner, an only child, whose mother Martha is only the daughter of Sarah Levi, only daughter of great aunt Fannie, who was the oldest of Dora's four daughters. Great aunt Millie had no children. I guess I'll have to find out about the tomato tastes of Noah, the great-grandson of Dora's other daughter, Anne. Actually, Anne's only daughter, Dorothy, had four daughters — Anne, Melanie, Cindy and Irene — and I'm out of touch with all of them. I guess I'll have to look them up to continue my research, but it certainly looks like dislike of raw tomatoes is a sex-linked trait in my family, just like male pattern baldness and color blindness (I have both of those too).
So for the most part, the more flavorful a raw tomato is, the more I hate it. But I soldier on, because it's my job and because I have found that I do like some obscure heirloom varieties. In fact, I liked about half of the tomatoes so kindly sent out by Dan Barber.
You may recall that I had an heirloom tomato salad last night too; this is a trying season for a tomato-hater.

What else I ate:
Salad of summer vegetables, raw and marinated greens from the restaurant's farm, pistachios and mushroom gelée
Grass fed lamb with quinoa, zucchini and Stone Barns bibb lettuce
Peach cobbler


Nancy Davidson said...

I'm still laughing about your genetic indisposition to tomatoes!

Bret Thorn said...

It certainly makes the summer seem to last longer.

Green Tea - Iced Tea said...

I also hate tomatoes, I always have. One day I tried some in a restaurant and actually liked them... the staff said they were Roma tomatoes, so now I have a type I like!

Bret Thorn said...

Good for you, green tea - ice tea. I hate Roma tomatoes, but I’m glad that you don’t.