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”Spain’s La Tomatina festival is the world’s biggest and best food fight”
by Tracy Miller;
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Did somebody say food fight?
The world-famous La Tomatina festival in Bunol, Spain, got underway Wednesday, and from the looks of it, things got delightfully messy as usual.
During La Tomatina, giant trucks roll into town and deliver scores of rotten tomatoes, which revelers grab, smash and throw at one another in an epic battle that leaves everyone — not to mention nearby buildings and city streets — covered in juicy red tomato guts.
Many participants come prepared for the carnage in swimsuits, giant goggles and even costumes — but let’s face it, there’s no getting around 100 tons of tomato pulp.
La Tomatina dates back to the mid-1940s. Its origins are unclear, but local lore holds the fight began as a spat between local merchants, or a tribute to the practice of disgruntled citizens throwing tomatoes at politicians.
The small city of about 9,000 gets a boost of about 40,000 people during the festival, which is held on the last Wednesday of August each year and draws tourists from as far away as Japan and Australia.
WIKI INFORMATION ON THE LA TOMATINA:
La Tomatina is a food fight festival held on the last Wednesday of August each year in the town of Buñol in the Valencia region of Spain. Tens of thousands of participants come from all over the world to fight in a brutal battle where more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets.
The week-long festival features music, parades, dancing, and fireworks. On the night before the tomato fight, participants of the festival compete in a paella cooking contest. It is tradition for the women to wear all white and the men to wear no shirts. This festival started in a casual way in 1945, but wasn’t officially recognized until 1952.
Approximately 20,000–50,000 tourists come to the tomato fight, multiplying by several times Buñol’s normal population of slightly over 9,000. There is limited accommodation for people who come to La Tomatina, and thus many participants stay in Valencia and travel by bus or train to Buñol, about 38 km outside the city. In preparation for the dirty mess that will ensue, shopkeepers use huge plastic covers on their storefronts in order to protect them.
The festival is in honor of the town’s patron saints, St. Louis Bertrand
(San Luis Bertràn) and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats
(Mother of God of the Defenseless), a title of the Virgin Mary.
The tomato fight has been a strong tradition in Buñol since 1944 or 1945. No one is completely certain how this event originated.
Possible theories on how the Tomatina began include a local food fight among friends, a juvenile class war, a volley of tomatoes from bystanders at a carnival parade, a practical joke on a bad musician, and the anarchic aftermath of an accidental lorry spillage.
One of the most popular theories is that disgruntled townspeople attacked city councilmen with tomatoes during a town celebration. Whatever happened to begin the tradition, it was enjoyed so much that it was repeated the next year, and the year after that, and so on. The holiday was banned during the Spanish State period under Francisco Franco for having no religious significance, but returned in the 1970s after his demise.
The La Tomatina
has an official website: http://www.tomatina.es/
, which gives a great deal of relevant and amusing information about the festival, its history and how it is run. In both English and Spanish!
This year it is expected that 45,000 visitors will participate in the festival. Bunol is not taking any chances about incidents: there are 11 ambulances and one helicopter on standby for any eventuality. An emergency clinic has been set up at the City Hall, complete with 13 doctors!
On top of this, there is plenty of security: 70 members of the Protección Civil ; 50 private security guards and 40 members of the Guardia Civil. And 36 volunteers!
THERE ARE RULES FOR THE FIGHT!
The City Hall of Buñol has prepared a list of rules which will ensure that the Tomatina remains a celebration. These simple rules of civic responsibility and cohabitation are important for the festival to develop as usual, without any problem:
1: Only tomatoes can be thrown. No bottles or hard objects that can cause injury.
2. No throwing of shirts ; no tearing of clothes.
3. The tomato has to be squashed before being thrown.
4. Special attention has to be taken of the trucks that bring in the tomatoes
5. The throwing of tomatoes must stop once the second shot is fired.
WHAT DO YOU REALLY KNOW ABOUT THE TOMATO?
There are 7,500
varieties of the tomato.
The heaviest tomato on record was 3.51 kgs.
Eating tomatoes is considered an excellent way to avoid dozens of cancers.
The tomato is native to South America. Genetic evidence shows that the progenitors of tomatoes were herbaceous green plants with small green fruit with a center of diversity in the highlands of Peru.
Many historians believe that the Spanish explorer Cortez may have been the first to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europe after he captured the Aztec city of Tenochtítlan, now Mexico City in 1521. Yet others believe Christopher Columbus, an Italian working for the Spanish monarchy, was the first European to take back the tomato, earlier in 1493.
The earliest discussion of the tomato in European literature appeared in a herbal written in 1544 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, an Italian physician and botanist, who named it pomo d’oro, golden apple.
After the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the Spanish distributed the tomato throughout their colonies in the Caribbean. They also took it to the Philippines, whence it moved to southeast Asia and then the entire Asian continent.
The Spanish also brought the tomato to Europe. It grew easily in Mediterranean climates, and cultivation began in the 1540s. It was probably eaten shortly after it was introduced, and was certainly being used as food by the early 1600s in Spain. The earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, though the author had apparently obtained these recipes from Spanish sources. However, in certain areas of Italy, such as Florence, the fruit was used solely as tabletop decoration before it was incorporated into the local cuisine in the late 17th or early 18th century.
The British thought the tomato poisonous, and for this reason they did not eat them until the 18th century! This despite the fact that the Italians and Spanish made the tomato part of their diet.
FRUIT OR A VEGETABLE?
Botanically, a tomato is the ovary,
together with its seeds, of a flowering plant: therefore it is a fruit.
However, the tomato is not as sweet as those foodstuffs usually called fruits and, from a culinary standpoint, it is typically served as part of a salad or main course of a meal, as are vegetables, rather than at dessert in the case of most fruits. As noted above, the term vegetable has no botanical meaning and is purely a culinary term. Originally the controversy was that tomatoes are treated as a fruit in home canning practices. Tomatoes are acidic enough to be processed in a water bath rather than a pressure cooker as “vegetables” require.
This argument has had legal implications in the United States.
In 1887, U.S. tariff laws that imposed a duty on vegetables but not on fruits caused the tomato’s status to become a matter of legal importance. The U.S. Supreme Court settled the controversy on May 10, 1893 by declaring that the tomato is a vegetable.
The holding of the case applies only to the interpretation of the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, and the court did not purport to reclassify the tomato for botanical or other purpose. Tomatoes have been designated the state vegetable of New Jersey. Arkansas took both sides by declaring the “South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato” to be both the state fruit and the state vegetable in the same law, citing both its culinary and botanical classifications.
In 2006, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a law that would have declared the tomato to be the official state fruit, but the bill died when the Ohio Senate failed to act on it.
However, in April 2009 a new form of the bill passed, making the tomato the official fruit of the state of Ohio.
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