One of the few regrets of my post-college graduation European backpacking adventure was not making it to La Tomatina in Spain. My friends and I had to choose between Pamplona's San Fermin festival - aka the Running of the Bulls - in early July or the giant tomato food fight, which is always held on the last Wednesday of August near Valencia. While we enjoyed our time in Pamplona, I've always wondered what it would be like to watch up to 40,000 people whip over-ripe tomatoes at each other on the streets of a small Spanish town.
Talk about entertaining...apparently the festival can't begin until one brave soul has climbed to the top of a two-story high, greased-up wooden pole to reach a coveted ham at the top. Yes, you read that right. And once the fight begins, participants are encouraged to "wear protective safety goggles and gloves." Cool!
Here's a little history about the event, in case you were wondering: The tomato fight has been a tradition in Bunol, a small town near Valencia, since 1944 or 1945. No one is completely certain how it originated, but theories include a local food fight among friends, a juvenile class war, a volley of tomatoes from bystanders at a carnival parade, a practical joke on a bad musician and the aftermath of an accidental lorry spillage. My favorite theory, though, is that disgruntled townspeople attacked city councilmen with tomatoes during a town celebration.
Regardless of La Tomatina's founding, it is still going strong all these years later, as photos of yesterday's event prove.
Some day, I hope to get back to Spain to check out the festival. Until then, I'll just have to enjoy my homemade Caprese salad, featuring wonderful Brandywine tomatoes and fresh basil from a friend's garden. Best.Lunch.Ever!
For all my fellow tomato fans, here are some wonderful, low-calorie recipes featuring all things tomato.
Tomato Raspberry Salsa
Sweet and Spicy BLT
Chicken with Red Mole