Sunday, July 8, 2012

One more locavore note

While I was looking up background on Pierre Desrochers (author of the Locavore's Dilemma) for the last post I noticed a favorable notice by Tyler Cowen and it got me thinking. Cowen is well known as what we used to call a gourmet. He has written extensively and knowledgeably on all matters culinary. He obviously cares deeply about good food.

As mentioned before, Desrochers is a defender of the far-traveled Florida tomato, a type of produce notable only for its durability (as described here by Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland, in an NPR interview):
Yeah, it was in southwestern Florida a few years ago, and I was minding my own business, cruising along, and I saw this open-back truck, and it looked like it was loaded, as you said, with green apples.
And then I thought to myself wait, wait, apples don't grow in Florida. And as I pulled up behind it, I saw they were tomatoes, a whole truckload mounded over with perfectly green tomatoes, not a shade of pink or red in sight. As we were going along, we came to a construction site, the truck hit a bump, and three or four of these things flew off the truck.
They narrowly missed my windshield, but they did hit the pavement. They bounced a few times, and then they rolled onto the shoulder. None of them splattered. None of them even showed cracks. I mean, a modern-day industrial tomato has no problem with falling off a truck at 60 miles an hour on an interstate highway.

I can't help but wondering what it would take to get Cowen to actually eat one of these things.


  1. Those tomatoes were developed during the Cold War as part of our nation's nuclear war fighting strategy. They can take anything but a direct hit.

  2. Cowen is not a typical gourmet. While he does think good ingredients matter, he also thinks their importance is overrated and I'm pretty sure at least some of those North Korean restaurants in Virginia strip malls he frequents use Florida tomatoes.
    If you look at the type of food he recommends it's mostly very heavily seasoned - and he's probably right that once you throw it into a proper curry it's pretty hard to distinguish the Florida tomato from the local, organic heirloom.

    (That, and, while Cowen is no Steven Landsburg, he shares the love of contrarianism so common among libertarians and economists and so particularly unbearable among libertarian economists).

    1. I was thinking of a plain tomatoes, not something in a dish, but that's still an interesting point.

      By the way, I'm no food expert but I generally agree -- cheap stuff properly seasoned and prepared is better than good stuff mishandled -- but raw tomatoes (even in a salad or sandwich) are the exception. They don't have to be heirloom but they do have to be picked ripe.

      (I'm a Southern boy. You can trust me on this)