Tomato, Tomahto, Lincoln: Fruits That Are Vegetables That Are Named Everything
Bodacious broke me.
Ms. K and I grow tomatoes. Have for years. According to the Department of Agriculture, 93 percent of home gardeners do. Our production strayed from the norm only, possibly, in its division of labor. She bought, started and transplanted the seeds. I did the digging, helped with the staking, devised, revised and improvised a series of chicken wire contraptions meant to fend off the pests. Together we picked them, sharing sweet whiffs of fresh-off-the-vine fruit, and ate them.
This arrangement allowed me to function within the bounds of a limited taxonomy: There was beefsteak, Roma and plum, funky looking heirlooms and a bunch of silly smaller ones people threw in salads. That covered the tomato universe, as far as I was concerned. Then someone told me about Bodacious. Immediately, I loved how it added another layer of entendre to a plant that already saw double. How delicious. But what other tomato names was I missing?
Later that night, I dug a seed catalog out of a pile of mail on the kitchen table and began to flip through it. Abracazebra, Andiamo, Attention, Applause. I hadn’t even made it out of the A’s and I was enchanted. I moved online, where the monikers came at me like colors in a Crayola box. Baby Cakes, Banana Legs, Box Car Willie.
I found myself wondering: If I drop a Green Giant or a Fat Mama on a Tiny Tim, would I end up with an Amish Paste or a Purple Smudge?
As the cultivars swirled and mixed in my brain, connections formed, narratives unfolded. Firecracker gave way to Roman Candle, which could only be a tame backyard version of a Rocket. Launch that in the Moonglow and watch as it goes Supersonic en route to landing on a Martian Giant. Terrestrial options seemed to trace the history of transport, from Conestoga to Pony Express to Roadster. A New Yorker could enjoy a ride in a Taxi.
A former English major, I was drawn to the literary references. Sophie’s Choice, I assume, grew out of a gut-twisting decision between an Early Girland a Better Boy. Meanwhile, the Umberto had a familiar echo, though the Tolstoi left me searching for why?
Out Damn Spot summoned a young Lady Macbeth after a Bloody Butcher had dribbled down her frock. Speaking of Shakespeare, what Morning Lightthrough yonder window breaks? There reposeth fair Juliet, not far from the Romeo. Were the two of them combined to create the Sweet Hearts Hybrid? No doubt both are good slicers; even as fruit the dagger continues to menace that poor star-crossed pair.
As it often does, art bumped up against commerce. Gold Nuggets, Sweet Gold, Sweet Million studded various lists. And behold the Moneymaker, which I can only hope is a derivative of the Mortgage Lifter and predecessor of the Millionaire. Speaking of which, there exists a White Beauty, a White Queenand a White Wonder, but as of yet, no White Privilege, although I guess it’s possible that exists but not everyone has access to it.
Sorry for getting political, but the tomatoes made me do it. In what may be an odd bit of bi-gardeningship, one ca have an Abraham Lincoln on the Fourth of July and a Fourth of July on Lincoln’s Birthday. And while we’re on holidays, did you ever wake up on Christmas morning and wonder if the Jolly Elf you saw rolling around the night before was St. Nick?
In general, America is well represented, from the Hillbilly to the Celebrity. Better still, we may yet see a day when an Arkansas Traveler puts on his Tennessee Britches and sets off for a Nebraska Wedding between a Jersey Boy and his Virginia Sweets. At the reception the Beauty King and Beauty Queen could sit together while Mr. Ugly dances with the Iron Lady.
The music may include Hard Rock (assuming that’s not a reference to consistency), Flamenco and Orange Jazz. And there will be food and drink enough for all. Choose between an Egg Yolk, a Buffalo Steak and a Pork Chop(taken from a Pineapple Pig or a Pink Boar, no doubt) and leave room for a dessert of Crème Brulee with Chocolate Sprinkles. Wash it all down with a Mint Julep or a Dacquiri. If it’s a cash bar, don’t whine or you may end up with a Baby Bottle.
At this point, the average Joker might be tempted to make a crack about the Booty, but such a peek Down Under will likely only leave you with a Tasmanian Blushing.