Tuesday, August 13, 2013

All Hail to the Tomato!


La Tomatina

Have you ever thought about joining a food fight... with 50,000 people?
Then you must be dying to throw tons of ripe tomatoes at people, right?
You’re in luck and in the nick of time because La Tomatina is the world’s biggest food fight and you still have time to get your ticket! The event is always on the last Wednesday of August (8/28/13). Now you just need to book that fight to Bunol, Spain.

The small quaint city of Bunol is located in Spain near Valencia and is the destination of the food fight.  Its normal population is 9,000 but for this event they expand way past maximum capacity to more than 40,000 people.  Throughout the last week of August leading up to La Tomatina, the city is host to many festivities, dancing, fireworks and a paella-cooking contest.

As in true folklore tradition, no one really knows for sure exactly how this food lore custom began.  The most popular story about it is that in the mid 1940’s disgruntled townspeople attacked city councilmen with tomatoes and it took off from there. During the reign of Francisco Franco, the festival was banned because Franco felt it had no religious significance, but in the 1970’s after his reign, it was reinstated. 

On the day of La Tomatina, the fight technically begins at 11 a.m. in the Plaza de Pueblo in the center of the city; however, it really begins after a daring person has climbed up a two story building in pursuit of a ham on a greased wooden pole.  Once he has retrieved the coveted ham, the water cannons go off and the fight begins.

All food customs have their rules and this event is no different. Before people head  out to the tomato war zone many shop owners cover their windows to avoid too much tomato carnage. Many contenders wear goggles, gloves, and closed toed shoes. Cameras to record the fun are waterproof and a post-fight trip to the Bunol River to wash off the tomato residue are also elements of the folk wisdom surrounding the festival.  Interesting to note that the city’s water canons are only used to rinse off the streets but not the visitors.

If you won’t be going but still want to feel like a part of the festivities, here are some recipes you can try from the comfort and safety of your own kitchen:

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