Dear people, do you know of the battle of the vegetables?
All is put before you.
The tomato rises up from the center:
“My food is famous, better than the eggplant!”
The eggplant responds:
“Be quiet, tomato.
You are not worth a penny.
Two days in the basket,
you are ready for the garbage!” . . .
—from Si Savesh La Buena Djente (Dear People, Do You Know of the Battle of the Vegetables?)
A lot of vegetables will be clamoring for attention at our seder this Tuesday night. We host the second night of Passover, and there will be both tomatoes and eggplants featured—but not in the same dish, so no fighting at the table.
On Sunday afternoon, I set out to buy the freshest vegetables (and fruit, too) that I could find before the holiday. The weather was warming, the air pleasant. I backed out of the garage. Ca-chunk! Not sure what that was about, I tested my brakes. All seemed fine, and on I drove.
That is, until the tire pressure gauge lit up about a mile down the road. I pulled over. Sure enough, I had a very flat tire. I drove carefully into a nearby parking lot, called AAA, then called home.
There was a time, long ago, when I might have tried to change it myself. In grad school, I once spent a very cold afternoon in a garage with one of my classmates, who taught me how to tune up my old Chevelle. It was fun. My hands froze, but this was long before I knew I had any medical issues.
Much as I wished I could have saved time, there was no way I would now attempt to change the tire with my hands so damaged by scleroderma. Instead, Al came to the rescue, traded cars with me and waited for AAA to arrive, while I headed off to the market.
Already behind schedule, I got there about 1:30. Never go shopping for vegetables at a Wegman’s on a Sunday afternoon, especially before a holiday week. The produce section was mobbed. Mesmerized shoppers wandered amidst rainbow mounds of fresh vegetables and fruits, sniffing and squeezing, checking for ripeness and price, with many near misses between shopping carts. “Pick me, pick me!” cried the delectable produce from their artful displays—all except the organic strawberries, on special, which had been snatched up long before I arrived.
Fortunately, the eggplants were piled at one end of the produce section and the tomatoes, at the other. I assume the produce staff are well aware of their rivalry and keep them separate.
I resolutely stuck to my list—except for picking up a bag of lovely, multicolored fingerling potatoes. One more easy side dish of roasted veggies certainly won’t be a hassle, right?
On my way to check-out, a seductive display of fresh plum tomatoes nearly broke my resolve. But I reminded myself that it would be so much more hand work to peel and seed them for the Prassa Yahnisi (Turkish Braised Leeks and Tomatoes), rather than use the Kosher for Passover canned variety that Al had already bought for me. Plus, I didn’t trust them to be sweet enough this time of year, no matter where their place of origin.
Yes, yes, I know. Sorry tomatoes, I’m afraid the fresh eggplants won this round. Maybe next year.
But . . . did you have anything to do with that flat tire?
Note: You can read the entire translated Ladino poem, Si Savesh La Buena Djente—and find wonderful vegetarian recipes for Passover and year-round—in Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World, by Gil Marks (Wiley Publishing: 2005).