Why is a tomato the essence of cinema?

July 14, 2021

Throughout my life, I have experienced passionate feelings towards the tomato. The tomato is a special fruit that may seem simple at a first glance, but as you think of her more, she turns out to be emblem of life and beyond. 

The tomato is like family.  Often sour, sweet at times, bitter when gone wrong and a combination of these flavors when done perfectly right. Tomatoes can be soft, wrinkly, squeezable, juicy and rotten. It is the all-encompassing fruit that represents all flavors and stages of life, different in every language. Depending on how I feel, the way I perceive the tomato differs. Sometimes she is a round red ball filled with tasteless water, sometimes (often), she is the holy fruit. 

You may find this story unordinary and a bit out of place for a podcast about cinema, but I am going somewhere with this. My confession and coming out a tomato-phile is only because cinema has taught me that my intense love for the edible is shared by others. You might be familiar with a phenomenal film made in 1988 by Juzo Itami, called Tampopo. 

Tampopo tells the story of two truck-drivers who stumble upon a struggling ramen-chef in Tokyo, who then end up having a collective mission to create the best ramen that the city has to offer. In their quest for the exquisite, the trio stumbles upon many figures who feel as passionately about food as I do. We meet the housewife who rises from her deathbed to cook her final meal for her family, a young gangster and his girlfriend who explore all erotic possibilities with food, and a gang of vagabonds who know how to cook proper French cuisine like no Frenchman does. 

I am a student at the film academy, and one of my teachers recently said to me: “a good scene is like a sun-dried tomato: dense, concentrated and filled with flavor.” If this is true, Tampopo can be considered the sun that dries the tomato. The film is juicy, bitter, mushy, creamy, romantic, candy-coated and quite spicy at times.

My love for food may be as big as my love for cinema. Both make me understand our basic human needs, our passions and our pain. It is when film and food are combined and strengthen one another, we reach a higher understanding of what the word delicious truly means.  

Comments are closed.