You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto, Spain Says: Just Throw it!


La Tomatina

La Tomatina, annual festival held on the last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Spain

Usually, when tomatoes start flying through the air, something really bad has happened that has triggered people’s unhappiness. If someone is delivering a miserable speech on stage, the traditional weapon of choice for expressing your dismay? Tomatoes. You just saw a movie in the theater that didn’t meet your expectations – what do you do? You go on rottentomatoes.com and cast your critical vote. These are just two of many examples where tomatoes come into play.

There is, however, another striking occurrence where this red fruit dominates the scene, literally. Once a year since 1944 the poor tomato fruit is spared its negative connotation that it’s been stuck with over time, and is actually connected to something positive and joyful.  On the last Wednesday of the month of August (that would be today), the 11-day festival La Tomatina in Buñol (near Valencia, Spain) culminates into the world’s largest food throwing festival. Surpassing the number of citizens (9,000) that inhabit this otherwise quiet town, over 30,000 folks swing their arms catapulting overripe and rotten tomatoes into the air and at people in the crowd. In order to avoid injuries, it is suggested the tomato is broken and squished in the hand before hurling it at the crowd.

The exact origin of this traditional event remains blurred with contradicting legends. Some say it is due to a local fight that broke out years ago when a truck overturned and spilled its load of tomatoes onto the streets. Locals try to protect their homes from this red mess by covering them up with plastic sheets – usually in vain.

Next time the infamous enunciation argument of whether it’s “tomato or tomahto” breaks out, you could bring some sense into this nonsensical “I’m right, your wrong” – discussion by alluding to this little Spanish fiesta anecdote. Or, if you’re really into it, grab that tomato and … (remember to squish!)

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