A commenter on last week’s blog entry suggested that pasta would be the go-to gift before chocolate was on the scene. I got thinking about that—how would the pasta be sauced before the tomato arrived in Europe? Because it, too, came from the New World, specifically from Mexico.

Without the tomato the present would have been just plain noodles for a long time. Even after the tomato arrived in Europe, it was not grown as a food crop. According to Wikopedia, it was grown as an ornamental. I read someplace a long time ago that it was called a “love apple” and rejected as a food because it was red—there was something about red food that made people wary. Maybe it’s the connection to the apple that tempted Eve. And, for the tomato, maybe it’s because it’s a member of the deadly nightshade family.

Anyway, the love apple had to work its way into the cuisine of Europe. But it succeeded. Big time. And it was returned to the Americas in the form of marinara and other tomato sauces when the Italians from Sicily and Naples emigrated to the U.S.

Come to think of it, Northern Italians benefited from discoveries in the new world, too—their cuisine includes polenta, which is corn-based, another Central American crop.

But I digress. I was talking about tomatoes. Red and juicy, they are full of vitamins and good things. They look luscious and taste wonderful. And they are the only fruit I know of that we treat as a vegetable. (Something floated around the internet recently that said, Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not adding it to a fruit salad.)

Digressing again.

So, all things considered, tomatoes are well worth adding to a romantic meal, don’t you think? What’s your favorite way to eat the love apple?

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