[Sca-cooks] *Sigh* That tomato thing - again

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Mon Oct 2 05:14:04 PDT 2006

Your oracle is probably basing their opinion on the quote from Gerard about 
how tomatoes were prepared and eaten in Spain and Italy.  It is of the "it 
is reported to me" variety and was published in 1596 (IIRC).  It may be 
correct, but it doesn't demonstrate any wide-spread use.

>From various texts, we know tomatoes were being eaten by natives (and very 
probably Europeans) in the Spanish New World.  They very likely entered 
European cuisine during the 16th Century, but unlike maize, sweet potatoes, 
white potatoes, and turkey, there is no definitive documentation.  The 
earliest European documentation is from Matthiolus's Herbal of 1544 and in 
later editions, he referred to the tomato as Mala insana and spoke of its 
unhealthy properties.  I don't recall the tomato appearing in Fuch's Herbal 
of 1554,  but maize and chili peppers do with reference to how the maize was 
being used in German cooking.

Castore Durante's Herbario nuovo (1585) provides "They are eaten the same 
way as eggplants, with pepper, salt and oil, but give little and bad 
nourishment."  This does not provide any information about the extent of 

The first true European recipe for the tomato doesn't occur until the end of 
the 17th Century:

Tomato sauce, Spanish style

Take half a dozen tomatoes that are ripe, and put them to roast in the 
embers, and when they are scorched, remove the skin diligently, and mince 
them fine with a knife. Add onions, minced finely, to discretion; hot chili 
peppers, also minced finely; and thyme in a small amount. After mixing 
everything together, adjust it with a little salt, oil and vinegar. It is a 
very tasty sauce, both for boiled dishes or anything else.

Antonio Latini, Lo scalco alla moderna, 1692/4

While the tomato was eaten in Europe in the 16th Century, your oracle has 
failed to determine the scope of the use and is assuming ubiquity when there 
is only evidence to support limited use.  We can make a far better case for 
wide spread adoption of maize and turkey than we can for the tomato.


> Okay, so... someone on our local list made the famous "tomatoes are TOO
> period because they were eaten in Italy and Spain in the 16th century" and
> (of course) didn't back it up with cites. But because they are a respected
> source of clothing information, it is swinging the whole group over to 
> think
> the durned things are 'just fine' for SCA *demos*!
> So since I don't pay any attention to tomatoes, I didn't save any
> information about them and their introduction to Europe. Does anyone have
> any quick & easy cites they'd be willing to share? I don't want to put
> anyone to any trouble but if you happen to have info easily to hand, I'd
> love to pass it on before we end up eating corn-on-the-cob at an 
> educational
> demo...
> Hrothny

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