Award-winning food writer Clarissa Hyman launched the second of her contributions to the Edible series of books – Tomato: A Global History – which plots the global history of one type of food or beverage.
Held at Cheadle Hulme’s At The Kitchen, accompanied by Bloody Marys and outstanding tomato-themed finger foods produced by chef Angela Boggiano, owner of this delightful cookery school and dinner club, an illustrious crowd of foodies were well rewarded for their efforts.
A scion of the Hyman family, who for almost a century ran the Titanics food shop in North Manchester’s Waterloo Road, Clarissa has produced many books on international cuisine – including one on the Jewish kitchen – and is hoping to research further contribution to this upmarket series.
Her book contains some surprising revelations too. Who knew that no tomato, except one that is nearly rotten, takes kindly to being kept in a fridge? In fact, the Italian who gave Clarissa this nugget of information accused the British of attempting to murder the beautiful fruit by exposing it to the cold. It also discloses that the tomato is closely related to both the aubergine and the potato as a species.
The book traces the tomato’s origins from early references in Mexico where its fruits were no bigger than a redcurrant and were eaten by the Incas as far back as the 16th century. Travelling to Spain at some time during that century, the seeds thrived in the Mediterranean climate and within the next 100 years became both popular and essential. Onward, the Italians began to use tomatoes in their food, replacing the potato as a staple. Drying the surplus in the warm southern regions helped to preserve their value and they became so cheap that they were used to throw at public figures to show discontent.
From salsa to pizza in Italy, though France to the UK, the book outlines how the tomato infiltrated English food via the tables of the wealthy, entering recipes in the 18th century and was grown in the south of England and the Channel Islands. When the tomato returned to America it was to the north and California, where the commercial canning of soup making made it possible to plant to huge acreages and use gluts and transport them.
All of these nuggets are contained in the beautifully illustrated book which contains authentic contemporary recipes including one for catsup substituted by ketchup, a bottle of which has graced every American table at some time or another since its production by Heinz. China and India are now the world’s leading growers of tomatoes and the by-products of production are being research for fuel and energy.
Meticulously researched and beautifully presented, Clarissa Hyman’s book is a treasure trove of information for those who are interested in the origins of foods and ingredients. Like her book on oranges, it will add flavour the lives of those who read it.
Tomato is published by Reaktion Books and is priced at £10.99.