August 19, 2015 • Food & Drink
My long and troubled history with tomatoes Tomatoes used to make me gag. I mean visceral, involuntary, chills-down-the-spine gag. I spent the first 20 years of my life avoiding them – or really, avoiding the dreaded gag reflex. Sometimes this meant that I skipped lunch, because as a kid one typically doesn’t have much control over the food one is served. If the bread of a sandwich had soaked up any bit of sliced tomato, I wouldn’t eat it. The only tomatoes I could stomach were those used to make ketchup and spaghetti sauce. As I grew older, it became harder to avoid the tomato as I graduated from “kid food” to being served “food.” The tomato started popping up regularly, even in grilled cheese, the most sacred of all kid food. By my teenage years I had the sense enough to realize that some tastes are acquired, and maybe if I forced myself to eat the dreaded tomato then eventually I might be able to (at the very least) politely eat what I’m served without gagging. At age 15, I tried to tackle the situation head on. I stood over the kitchen trashcan and bit into a whole tomato like an apple. It was a total fail. I couldn’t swallow it, and vividly remember the white trash bag lining the can, gelatinous tomato innards and little whitish seeds clinging to the plastic, feeling defeated. The Trashcan Incident convinced me that the aversion was not a “picky kid thing” but rather a legitimate biological response. I got over my tomato aversion when I studied abroad during college in Costa Rica and was faced with the tomato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was not going to be the ungrateful American gagging at the food that my homestay family so graciously served me. The onslaught of thrice daily tomato servings went on for a full four and a half months. I started by hiding bites of tomato in forkfuls of rice and beans. Mercifully, by the end of the semester, I was able to eat a naked and undisguised bite of tomato. I even started to like it. Studying abroad had indeed expanded my horizons. Gazpacho, the cold tomato soup of summer, ranked high on my list of foods to avoid during my tomato-dodging years. But it has become something that I look forward to making each August, when many of the ingredients are in season. Eating gazpacho is symbolic of a personal victory and an annual reminder of my long and troubled history with the unavoidable tomato. This recipe is for a chunky version of the soup – I think of it as “salad soup.” The avocados are an unexpected addition and lend a welcome creaminess to the otherwise crisp vegetables. August is the time to savor the last bites of these summer vegetables, so eat up! Emily Yepes is an advertising representative at Community Journals and a fitness instructor at Barre Evolution and RevUp Indoor Cycling. She is “just” a home cook whose favorite hobby is to test and perfect recipes for her annual family cookbook. CHUNKY GAZPACHO
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