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Tomatoes Not Chopped From This Menu


This week many Americans did the unthinkable - to me. They stopped eating tomatoes. The salmonella outbreak is what drove people to this horrifying end. And who can blame them when the FDA still hasn't pinpointed the source of the bacteria? Me, I've gone right ahead eating tomatoes with not a moment's pause. To me life without tomatoes is, well, I don't know what that would be.

Tomatoes are not just a vegetable. Okay, fruit. They're not just the stuff of spaghetti sauce and salsa. Tomatoes are a part of life. Even my 2-year-old vegetable-phobe, Sofia, loves them.

To find out how they achieved this exalted status in my family, I went straight to the source, the tomato guru, Elizabeth Seabrook, my mom.

Ms. ELIZABETH SEABROOK: I remember as a little kid eating homegrown tomatoes at both of my grandparents' house, and then my parents always grew them and talked about them with great relish. And therefore I grow them; I grow them winter and summer.

SEABROOK: You know what I love? I love how tomato plants smell.

Ms. SEABROOK: Well, that's why I grow them in the winter. I never have gotten very many tomatoes in the winter, but the smell of the tomato plants are something that I just love.

SEABROOK: There's just a feeling that goes with it, right?

Ms. SEABROOK: It makes me long for a ripe tomato.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SEABROOK: Instead of those red, plastic tomato-like things we get in the store in the winter.

SEABROOK: And you know how Sofie stands in the backyard now and...


SEABROOK: ...eats tomatoes off your vine.

Ms. SEABROOK: Yep. And they just drip down her front, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: There's something about that that makes me, I don't know, wistful or something because...

Ms. SEABROOK: Well, I did it with my father. We'd go out to the tomato patch and he had a great big one. He had a big garden at the back of the house, and he would take me out there with a salt shaker. And he would say, there is nothing better than a warm sun-warmed ripe tomato. Then he'd put a little salt on and feed us. He did it to all of us, all my brothers and me. So a lot of it reminds me of my own parents.

SEABROOK: You know the salmonella scare this week...


SEABROOK: ...over the tomatoes. Have you stopped eating tomatoes?

Ms. SEABROOK: Oh, never. No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SEABROOK: I don't think a day's gone by when I haven't eaten a tomato, in my whole life probably.

SEABROOK: It's just not an option.


SEABROOK: I mean, you know, it doesn't matter what the FDA says.

Ms. SEABROOK: Right.

SEABROOK: My life does not move forward...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: ...without tomatoes.

Ms. SEABROOK: Right. Exactly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: Thanks, mom.



That's Elizabeth Seabrook of Annapolis, Maryland. Call us crazy, say we're risking our lives, but we will not stop eating tomatoes. If we did, we'd risk something equally important: our happiness. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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