Ten Tomatoes the Changed the World

Ten Tomatoes that Changed the World: A History

by William Alexander
Length: 9:17
Narrator: Paul Bellantoni
Published on June 7, 2022
Pages: 320
Format: Audiobook Source: Library

New York Times bestselling author William Alexander takes readers on the surprisingly twisty journey of the beloved tomato in this fascinating and erudite microhistory.
The tomato gets no respect. Never has. Lost in the dustbin of history for centuries, accused of being vile and poisonous, subjected to being picked hard-green and gassed, even used as a projectile, the poor tomato has become the avatar for our disaffection with industrial foods — while becoming the most popular vegetable in America (and, in fact, the world). Each summer, tomato festivals crop up across the country; the Heinz ketchup bottle, instantly recognizable, has earned a spot in the Smithsonian; and now the tomato is redefining the very nature of farming, moving from fields into climate-controlled mega-greenhouses the size of New England villages. 
Supported by meticulous research and told in a lively, accessible voice, Ten Tomatoes That Changed the World seamlessly weaves travel, history, humor, and a little adventure (and misadventure) to follow the tomato's trail through history. A fascinating story complete with heroes, con artists, conquistadors, and—no surprise—the Mafia, this book is a mouth-watering, informative, and entertaining guide to the food that has captured our hearts for generations.

The husband and I were going on a road trip and I was browsing my Libby app to try to find an appropriate audiobook. I laughed when I saw this one. He has been obsessed with tomatoes for the last few weeks. There couldn’t have been a more perfect book.

I love books that look deeply into the history of very specific items. This book starts with the history of the tomato in Mexico. From there the tomato got imported to Spain and eventually Italy where no one had any idea what to do with it for hundreds of years.

We learned about the history of pizza and pastas with tomato based sauces. We found out what it takes to breed the vast quantities of tomatoes that are used around the world and why most tomatoes taste so bad. This actually ties in to Stanley Tucci’s TV show on CNN because the author of this book and Stanley Tucci were being shown around the San Marzano fields at about the same time.

He also touched on the labor disputes in the Florida tomato fields that I read about in depth in The Next Supper.

The day after we got back in town I had to go grocery shopping. I was paralyzed in front of the tomato displays. Vine on or off? From Mexico or Michigan? Both were from greenhouses. There were no options from Florida which is good. Heirlooms? I know pros and cons of everything now. I got a selection so we can taste test.

This book stayed entertaining and fun while imparting a lot of information. It would be great for anyone who likes knowing where their food comes from.