The Red Revolution
Let’s try and imagine a scenario:
An alien comes from another planet and gives you a new food to try. The food is red -- passionate red, dangerous red. The alien tells you to go ahead, cook it. Would you do it? Personally, I don’t think so. I would probably put it on a shelf and try not to think about it.
The story of the alien is actually similar to something that happened in the 16th century on my continent. Spaniards -- and the rest of Europe -- saw the main ingredient of this month’s column for the first time then, when conquistadors brought it back from the New World. Which ingredient is it? The conquistadors were inadvertently starting the Red Revolution then, and I don’t mean the Russian or Carnation Revolution. They had brought back the tomato.
That it didn’t have the smoothest introduction to our kitchens does not surprise me. Who first had the cojones to cook with it, knowing it looks like the poisonous mandrake, a plant native to the Mediterranean to which it is related? (It’s also the plant shown in Harry Potter, the one that can ruin your ears if you take it from the soil.)
Because of its bright colors, the Italians call it pomodoro, which translates to gold apple. It was used first for decoration, until someone decided to try eating it.
Who was the first brave one to eat the mandrake-cousin?
From that moment until now -- a time when it is impossible to think of Mediterranean cuisine without the tomato -- less than four centuries have passed.
Tomatoes. Stuffed, fried, grilled, as a sauce… thousands of recipes, thousands of ways to cook them. But since summer is coming and I feel like eating refreshing and hydrating food, I have decided to write about one of the cold tomato-based soups we eat in Spain. No, it is not gazpacho, but it is similar. Its name is salmorejo, and it is typical of Cordoba. I bet that if Seneca, Averroes or Maimonides -- the three philosophers of ancient Cordoba -- had known about it, they would have sung about it. Here you are.