The Mistreatment of Love Apples at the Hands of the Brits.
The tomato is perhaps not the most important food item in the world. Unlike potatoes, coffee, tea and bananas, no country in the world depends on tomatoes. No nation will find itself bankrupted and no war will ever start because a tomato crop has failed. Then again, a world without tomatoes would perhaps not be worth living in. Just imagine going the rest of your life without baked beans or tomato sauce! Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?
Of late, I have been thinking about tomatoes a lot. It began with a sojourn to the town of Fleetwood in Lancashire, where I decided to take lunch in the Thomas Drummond, a Wetherspoons pub. Being in a celebratory mood, I treated myself to a 12 ounce Aberdeen Angus steak.
Now when it comes to a steak meal, for me the only establishments in the UK I deem worthy of my custom are Wetherspoons pubs. In terms of quality and price I know of no other establishment on this sceptred isle that comes within a country mile of ‘Spoons.
I’m afraid a year of living in Dallas raised my expectations of how big a steak should be and how much it should cost. Before Dallas, I actually considered a visit to an English steakhouse to be something of a treat. Now you’d have to point a gun at my head to get me to set foot in one.
Admittedly, even a 12 ounce Aberdeen Angus jobby pales into insignificance against the dirty great slabs of dead cow on offer in your average Dallas eatery, but you’d be hard pushed to find a Dallas-sized steak in this country that wouldn’t set you back the price of a second hand car.
Anyway, the point is that my Wetherspoons steak was just fab. The Jack Daniel’s sauce was scrummy. And the onion rings were fine. The only fly in the ointment – or should that be in the soup? – was, rather inevitably, the tomato. To be specific, it was half a tomato. Not that I had any problem with the incompleteness of the fruit in question. No, my beef was with the fact that the outside was cooked and the inside was raw.
Yep. That’s right. Outside cooked. Inside raw.
Now, that’s exactly how I like my steak, but it’s not the way I like my tomato. If you’re going to cook a tomato – or even half of one – make sure it’s cooked all the way through, why don’t you?
Frankly, I wasn’t at all surprised that the tomato was only half done; in fact, I was rather expecting it. You see, there doesn’t seem to be a single eatery or hostelry in Britain that knows how to cook a tomato properly. Or perhaps they know and just can’t be bothered. Perhaps they think that because everyone else fudges the job they’re at liberty to do the same.
Throughout the length and breadth of Britain I have eaten ‘cooked’ tomatoes in pubs, clubs, restaurants, greasy spoon cafes and trattorias, and I don’t think I have ever once been served with a tomato that was cooked as a tomato should be cooked. I have even breakfasted at 5 star hotels (not at my own expense, I hasten to add) where for the most part the cuisine is way above par but where I have found myself confronted with supposedly fried tomatoes whose skins are cooked to a crisp but whose innards are cryogenicly preserved.
Why is it so hard for people to get it right?
Here’s a tip for the tomato cookers of the world: if you’re going to grill or fry tomatoes, use cherry tomatoes. They’ll cook all the way through in no time. Failing that, slice a beef tomato and throw the slices under the grill or into a pan. It’s not difficult and you’ll be helping to make the world a better place.
And while we’re on the subject, who the hell is responsible for inflicting plum peeled tomatoes on the world? Bleeuuuurrrrgggggh!!!!!!!