I was walking around downtown yesterday, snapping a few photos for an upcoming post and reveling in the sunshine and warm air, when I decided to stroll through the Bremerton Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Terminal. I was thrilled to buy some homemade soaps and giddy to find my favorite salsa vendor had shown up. Then I saw the real reason I love farmers markets, the vegetable stand.
I love a vegetable stand. Love. LOVE.
In my head I picture tractors and dirty overalls, calloused hands, and good clean country living as I stare at each and every handpicked pepper and zucchini. It reminds me of my own Granny and Papaw and their amazing garden that grew everything from green beans to grapes and of the family dinners we shared around Granny’s table. The vegetable stand is a trip down memory lane.
On that day my eyes were drawn to the tomatoes. These tomatoes, in fact.
“They don’t quite look like what I normally buy at Safeway. Are they a special variety?”
The farmer smiled and chuckled and began to educate me about her tomatoes. She told me that they were in fact not a special variety; they are what tomatoes are supposed to look like. She explained that somewhere along the way someone decided that tomatoes should be bright red, quite large, and perfectly round, the better to fit on a sandwich, I guess. I’d never given it much thought, but it made sense to me. She went on to say that these tomatoes would also be more fragile, more prone to bruising or bursting if I wasn’t careful, than the store bought variety, as they haven’t been bred for the sole purpose of travelling well. This also made them juicier because the skin was not as tough as the others. She shared their names and the special attributes of each type: one sweeter, one meatier, all much tastier than what I usually pick up at the store.
This struck me as particularly sad. I bought two pounds and walked away deep in thought … about tomatoes, about expectations and reality, and about my own life. The tomatoes in the store, the ones I buy for just a dollar or two per pound, are barely a hint of what nature intended them to be. Somewhere along the way, a person decided how they should look, feel, and travel and changed them. It was probably a slow process. It likely took years, but it happened, and now I have children, just one generation away from the farm, that looked at these real tomatoes and said, “What are they?”
I have definitely looked at myself with that same cock-eyed questioning at times and asked, “Who are you?” I have for most of my adult life struggled to be something different than who I am, struggled to become like that store-bought tomato, perfect for every situation, the right look, the right response, and I always find that when I am looking for that type of one size fits all presentation, I take on the less appealing attributes of the store-bought variety, a water-downed, less appealing version of myself.
These tomatoes, the real tomatoes, are funny looking, but I like to think of it as character. They aren’t what we’re used to; they are surprisingly delicious. They are what a tomato was intended to be before someone decided that was no longer what was best. They are perfectly imperfect.
I hope that from now on I can remember this each time I try to dress or speak or act to impress. Character over curb appeal. Flavor over fashion. Substance over what someone else would have me to be.
I want to be like that funny looking tomato, just what God intended.