One of the most unusual requests for research in the Early Music field I have received, was when I was asked to find repertoire dedicated to tomato and tomatillo in Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Since their arrival in Spain with Columbus, tomato has made a great deal of progress as a symbol of good cuisine, health, happiness and roundness, gaining a cultural relevance worthy of respect.
As a matter of fact, tomato could even be considered sort of a modern archetype of juicy roundness, with its pure geometrical shape (especially in varieties which are perfectly round, with no ribs).
But truth is that in its beginnings, tomato and its less popular cousin tomatillo had a hard time being accepted as foods: they were relegated to being purely ornamental, and the fact that the stem and leaves of the plant are even poisonous, so to speak, gave way to a few prejudices towards them.
Therefore it was impossible to me, at this point and on such short notice, to find any music expressly written to exalt the virtues of tomato, or which mentions tomato explicitly in its text. But there are mentions of vegetables and food in two Spanish Romanceiros which were sent to me very kindly by Professor Pepe Rey, to whom I am very grateful. I will have to read them carefully, and I hope to finally find something relevant to the research.
In the meantime, as a music group who prefers to innovate and build on the basis of the past, rather than being crystalized in a perception of performance practices which is stale and keep audiences distantly bored, we dedicated to the “Quest of the Mighty Tomato” one of our music videos, recently published on Youtube.
We arranged a Jacara of Anonymous, circa 1600. We performed it at the inauguration of the new Tomato Museum of Parma, not because it was connected to tomato history in any way, but simply to give an idea of the lively spirit of cultural life in Spain of that period.
Anyway, I hope that the images of the Tomatina of Valencia, and the music we recorded at one of our concerts will brighten your day and help start this new Year on the right foot, with lots of energy to face any battle coming at us!