Do you ever read a book’s marketing summary after finishing a book and wonder what in the world they’re going on about? The teaser for “Ten Tomatoes that Changed the World” by William Alexander starts off like this: “The tomato gets no respect. Never has. Stored in the dustbin of history for centuries, accused of being vile and poisonous, appropriated as wartime propaganda, subjected to being picked hard-green and gassed, even used as a projectile, the poor tomato is the Rodney Dangerfield of foods. Yet, the tomato is the most popular vegetable in America (and, in fact, the world). It holds a place in America’s soul like no other vegetable, and few other foods.”
Eyeroll. I realize I’m not here to review the book summary, probably written by someone underpaid at the author’s publishing house, but the tone is illustrative of the book in general – vaguely irritating and corny. If tomatoes are the most popular vegetable, I’m pretty sure the assertion that they don’t get respect and never have is false.
Like many people, tomatoes are my favorite vegetable. I’m also friends with a tomato farmer, grow my own tomatoes, and tend to divide the year into “tomato season” and “not tomato season”. All this to say that my reaction to this book may not be most people’s and your personal mileage may vary.
I found Alexander’s dive into tomato history and modern-day, large scale tomato farming practices really interesting, but the tone of the book was corny as fuck. This was made worse by the audiobook narrator leaning into the jokey tone, taking this listen to an extreme level of cringe. Not to my personal taste, though I’m sure the tone is there to make the book friendlier to the casual reader/gardener and distinguish it from a dry academic piece. I could see that working for a lot of readers, I just wasn’t in the mood. That being said, absolutely worth reading if you’re into growing tomatoes or food histories.
I listened to the audiobook version of this book. I rate audio on a 4 point scale (1 – bad, 2 – ok, 3 – good, 4 – great) and this was a 1.5 star narration. To be fair, the narrator had a great voice and was technically skilled, I just thought it was so over the top that it became distracting.