Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Tomato Crazy" A Cult Classic Starring Robin Robinson

     Recently, I was asked, "Do you have too many tomatoes?" I didn't hesitate. "No! I could never have too many tomatoes!" But, that's not totally true. In years past, when I've had big vegetable gardens, I have had too many tomatoes. I've called people and asked the same question. I think a common trait amongst vegetable gardeners is frugality. Most vegetable gardeners don't throw produce out unless it goes onto their own compost heap where it will one day give again. They freeze, can,  cook and besiege friends and co-workers with bountiful gifts of harvest. That's a nice way of saying that they unload the end results of their compulsions and guilt on other people in the form of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, tomatillos, parsley or cucumbers (shall I go on?).
   One year, in the refrigerator, at the bottom of a plastic bag, I had one potato that had sprouted eyes like purple tentacles. I buried it in the vegetable garden for kicks and forgot about it. At the end of the season, after the first frost turned the greens to black slime, I decided to dig it up. I pushed the garden fork into the soil, pressing downward with my foot. I felt something underground - resistance. So as not to gouge the potatoes, I backed off the fork and moved out a little. I pushed again. More resistance. Moving outward, I pushed in again. I kept at this, moving further and further out each time. I was thinking, "What the hell is under there?!" It couldn't be a potato! It would have to be the size of a Volkswagen! Eventually, I dug up a lone potato that was, in fact, the size of a Volkswagen. Or, to be honest, maybe a SmartCar. I swear - it had a pulse or at least, its own zip code. It was enormous! It was so big, that I couldn't bring myself to chop it up. It was a country fair freak show vegetable, a side show. It could have been featured in a tent; to enter, only people over 18 could get a ticket. "Come one! Come all! Get a peek at the pulsing, colossus!" the hawker would chant to passers by. At the very least, it could have starred in a David Lynch cult movie. After all, there was weird asparagus in the 1977 classic, Eraserhead. I had a star on my hands! I decided to take it to work.
     At the time, I worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield, or "Blue Cross Blue Cheese," as  I liked to call it. By any name, it was a white collar cubicle hell that would have put Dilbert in a psychiatric unit. It was a staid, dull work place. And, that was before Community Supported Agriculture groups (CSAs) and before "organic" became a markettable concept. "Take A Vegetable To Work Day" had not yet been conceived, either.
     I wasn't the only one who brought produce to work. However, others generally brought things like fat and sugar laden zucchini bread, or maybe a daring jar of Bread And Butter pickles, certainly not a humungous, grotesque, single potato.  Well, there was that woman who brought the incessant dahlias. Her dahlias kept on giving until I wanted to scream. I like dahlias, but when a person insists on giving them to you over and over again because they can't stop them selves and neither can their dahlias, well that's another thing entirely. When no one would take them anymore, she showed up with mayonnaise jars full of them every day. The office looked like a dahlia funeral home. They were everywhere! The receptionist's head was not even visible when a person entered the building. When a visitor approached her desk, they talked to a big, pink or yellow or peach or white dahlia depending on the day. Sometimes it was deep red ones that looked like raw beef steak on a stick.  I can't even remember the dahlia woman's name. Dahlia? Maybe her name was actually Dahlia. Come to think of it, I can't remember her face either. I only have this image of a doughty, female form with a head like a giant, "Dinner Plate" dahlia. It's not an attractive image, either. The body is a mayonnaise jar with a voice speaking from a dahlia face. It's hideous, a nightmare to be sure. I know what you're thinking: I brought the giant potato to the same place of employment. But I only did that once.
      We had just recently been given e mail in the office. E mail was a brand new tool and it was only available in house. The Internet existed, but only the military had it. Can you imagine that? All of our information sharing was done on paper in the form of memos. There was a lot of grumbling and complaining about e mail. "What do we have to learn to do this for?" And there were people who refused to learn to do it. But, I embraced the whole idea. I was a quick study and learned to use it very quickly. One of the first things I did was tell the entire two hundred plus cubicles about my potato.
     I raffled it off. I didn't take money, much as I would have liked to. I understood the power of e mail and what I could gain from it, but I had limits. That's the only reason I wasn't the original founder of eBay. Even I realized I could lose my job by exploiting my potato and using company resources to do it. So, I had people guess the weight of the potato. The person who came closest could have the potato cooked to their specifications by me. I was a pretty decent cook, so this was an incentive. I made a whole 9x13 dish of au'gratin from that single potato which weighed...............2.8 pounds. It seemed like a anti-climactic end to the splendid spud, but after all - at it's heart it was just a potato.
     With the tomatoes bestowed upon me last week, I made cream of tomato soup. I had left over brown rice and used about a cup of lovage. I have lovage in my minuscule container garden. It was given to me by another crazed gardener, of course. Even my son the chef doesn't know what lovage is, never mind what to do with it, I asked. I used fresh thyme, basil and parsley. The cream base was fat free Greek yogurt and milk. I threw in a couple of generous glugs of white wine - the remaining quarter cup at the bottom of the bottle where the fruit flies had drowned. David loved the soup so much, he's been dreaming about it at night. He thrashes in his sleep and babbles about it during the day as if driven insane. "That tomato soup was so good! I drive around town and see everybody's tomatoes going to hell and I just want to take them. It's driving me crazy.........." he trailed off. He seemed confused, dazed, in a tomato haze. Maybe I'll ask him if he wants to star in a movie.............I'll call it "Tomato Crazy."    

This is another cooking drama from which bad dreams were born. Stay tuned.



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17 comments:

  1. Hi Robin...You are just to funny lol : }
    I do know what Lovage is!!
    I grew it in my herb garden for quite a few years, and when the neighbor told me about this plant that was growing on there property and spreading would I know what it was.....hummm... not really!! lol

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  2. Thank you Jen and G.G. I'm glad you think it's funny and not just twisted and lacking in graciousness.

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  3. Do you realy have tomatos,if so I'll be right over. LIked the blog,maybe you could get a job as a writer on a comedy show or SNL,very funny. I have a gardening ? for you.bmc

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  4. TOO FUNNY! Can't imagine you having too many tomatoes with the way your sweet husband loves them! The Guinness Book of Records Should have been notified about your potato! Maroon Dahlias were in my wedding and bridesmaids' bouquet over 43 years ago and I still love the flower.
    HG

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  5. You need to get paid for these! Or maybe you do….

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  6. Thank you, but let me put it to you this way: would you pay money?

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  7. love your photos, they are fabulous and love the potato story !!! You go Girl !!

    Bonnie Kynoch

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  8. I,too, worked in one of those dreadful cubicles, only it was at Union Mutual (Unum) or,as I called it,"Mother M". My most striking memory is of the myriad of high heels clicking thru the lobby at break time...talk about nightmares...

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  9. Ya, Sharon, that IS a good image, in a nightmarish way. I can see the heels in my mind's eye. Today, I would be far more likely to wrestle an alligator than a pair of panty hose.

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  10. Robin, this was so FUNNY!!!!! I just loved it. I have been unloading
    kale this week. Finally found two people who love it.
    Jo

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  11. Hey don't give away all the kale without calling me or I'll have to resort to a secret kale raid in the night. HHhhhhmmmm, sounds like a blog brewing there!

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  12. Robin, you brightened up my morning coffee. My husband got up wondering what I was laughing about this early in the morning. You are a born comedian!

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  13. Thank you, Hilke. Of all of the things I do in my life, to make people laugh is on the top of my list of most gratifying.

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  14. This was a hoot! Oh yes...the cubicle hell- I still have nightmares!!!! Still can't believe I lasted 9.5 years doing that. That would explain my on going insanity. Can't wait to hear the adventures of the chicken w/ beer up her butt.... get going girl! Also, your cover photo- AWESOME!
    Love,
    Ms. Boo

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  15. Thank you, Boo! All I got to say is "Poor, poor chicken."

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  16. Oh how I loved this story...hilarious!

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