It began innocently enough. A few days after my mom died in 2003, when flowers and cards were pouring in, my friend Heather brought me a Miss Piggy candy cane and vegetables from her dad’s garden. Clearly, Heather was a friend who Got It. The vegetables included a few zucchini and the most delicious homegrown tomato I’d ever tasted. I sliced it up, salted it and ate it for lunch that day.
Looking back on it, cults always prey on the desperate, don’t they?
For the most part, I’ve been content to buy flavorless grocery store Romas. I don’t live near a farmer’s market, and I’m not in the Whole Foods income bracket, so temptation alluded me.
But then Ralphs on La Brea started carrying heirloom tomatoes. Once upon a time, a perfectly round, red, machine-ripened tomato that could survive a 1,000-mile truck ride must have seemed like small miracle to farmers and eaters. But we’re so post that. Now the mottled skin of these asymmetrical ancient varieties gleamed from the faux-country straw basket in which they were lovingly nested next to a small sign that said “Heirloom tomatoes, $7.99/lb.”
Hell no, I’m not paying $7.99 a pound for tomatoes, I thought. I walked away, proud of being a smart consumer.
Then I saw a nearly identical basket that said, “Heirloom tomatoes, Ralphs Club price $3.99/lb.” Hell yeah, I thought, as if bananas weren’t 19 cents a pound.
By the time I visited the South Pasadena Library last night for a reading by organic farmer and creative nonfiction writer David Mas Masumoto—a man whose description of ripe peaches is second only to Roald Dahl’s in terms of crave factor—I was helpless. Did I mention that the reading took place outside in the lovely, cool early-fall evening? Next to a farmer’s market?
You may not be surprised to lea