Where are the tomatoes?

Nearly every Saturday night, Justin plays guitar and sings folk and indie songs for two hours at a sandwich chain on State Street, Potbelly Sandwich Shop. And nearly every Saturday night, we split a Big Pizza Sandwich on Wheat with no pepperoni, but with mushrooms, cheese, tomato sauce, lettuce, tomato, hot peppers, and Italian seasoning. It's the standard--the thing we always get, unchanging from week to week.

And yet, last week, I approached the Potbelly to find this sign on the front door:

And although the Potbelly was apologizing, I was jumping up and down with excitement and clapping my hands, saying yeah! Finally an acknowledgment by a chain restaurant that foods change from season to season! That there's no reason that we should expect to have the same toppings on our sandwiches, day in, day out! That our food comes from a place where it is grown in the ground (usually)! And that the ground in which this food is grown is part of a larger ecosystem, a larger environment, that is shaped by climate!

So, no tomatoes in winter! What a revolutionary, and yet super-traditional, idea!

I can't stop with the exclamation marks!

Now, if only the Potbelly would have this sign up all winter long, with an explanation of the absence of tomatoes rooted in an explanation of agriculture, seasonality, availability, distribution, and all the messy parts of bringing food from farm to table that usually stay so invisible in our world of standardized food.

Let's bring it all to light!


  1. Perhaps when you finish your dissertation, you can tape a copy to the door, just below the tomato sign. Then those sandwich eaters will really know where their food comes from!

  2. In the big supermarkets in Korea (the ones where multinationals own 80% of the stock), there are little TV units plastered over the aisles, so that you're watching commercials at the same time you shop. It really confused me the first time - I didn't know where the chatter was coming from and thought I was going schizo.

    Anyhow, my point is, how great would it be if the little screens, instead of showing you coffee ads that say "If you can't forget him, that means it's love...MAXIM coffee. Unforgettable." (I'll leave it to JH to tease out the implications of the statement) and other such bs, showed you FOOD, Inc or FRESH or even just some phrase like "it is not possible to grow tomatoes in winter without using fossil fuel"?

  3. That *would* be great! Some folks I know are trying to do something sort of along those lines around here: http://www.snowshoefood.com/ --an iPhone app that tells you if products are local, or reveals local alternatives.


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