Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Memo

ATTN: Spain
RE: Your Overuse of the Refrigerator

So, Spain, we’ve been on pretty close terms for a while now, and there’ve been many things we’ve been able to talk through. I’ve come to accept your ways of shutting down all functions during, inexplicably, the middle of the day, and your bizarre notion that during the summer, people should only work in the mornings, if at all. I appreciate that you’ve been willing to throw my American ways the occasional bone; I thought it was pretty nice of you to make at least a few bars and restaurants smoke-free. But sometimes, you just don’t know how to do things right.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m aware that the death of your longstanding Fascist regime is an event branded upon the memories of even your younger middle-aged inhabitants. I mean, I remember when they showed the news that John Lennon was shot, so it’s not like I don’t have experiences with the end of an era. But seriously, while a refrigerator is a pretty handy thing to have, you don’t need to use it for everything. Some things actually taste better at room temperature.

In particular:
We’ve been over this several times. Bananas, from tropical climes, are ideally to be suspended from a hook. Not only does this remind them of their natural habitat, just beyond the reach of the fingers of hungry monkeys, it also prevents them from getting bruised. They are not to touch plastic, and they are not to be put into the fridge. Ever. Not even when there are many bananas, and you think that, just this once, it will help them to last longer by storing them somewhere cold, dark, and humid.

Putting the bananas into the refrigerator does not enhance their flavor, increase their longevity, or add in any way to the experience of eating one. It just makes them get disgusting and brown. I know that this is you in general, Spain, and not just one of your denizens. Just a month or two ago, after eating lunch at a friend’s house, she offered me fruit, and one of the things that she did was that she took bananas out of the refrigerator. Then she said, (I’m translating here) “I don’t know why they’ve turned brown. I refrigerated them and everything.”

Now, Spain, hear me out. I really like gazpacho. I find your chilled raw tomato-based soup a refreshing addition to my summertime diet. However, your insistence upon refrigerating a perfectly good tomato when it’s not even threatening to go mushy is, I’m willing to bet, one of the major reasons for the general weakness of your economy. Compounded with your missteps in the New World, your expulsion of the moriscos between 1609 and 1614 and your consequent loss of a labor force, and a century of epidemics, I’m pretty certain that someone’s dim-witted idea to keep tomatoes somewhere cold instead of, again, somewhere room temperature, was what brought your standing down in the world stage. Big time.

You know why? It makes you lose credibility as a potential culinary superpower. And, as we all know, no one wants to do business with a place with no respect for the integrity of ingredients. The thriving economy of Silicon Valley? It’s all because of Alice Waters. Your insistence upon refrigerating tomatoes, even ones that I, not you, purchased, for use in salad, makes the inventions of paella and the delightful small plates that are tapas seem like flukes.

Even the New York Times thinks you should never refrigerate a tomato. As we both know, they are never, ever wrong.

Thanks for your attention, Spain. I knew that you would understand.


Anonymous Zora said...

Har. The tomato thing does ruin credibility, for sure.

I recently tried to get someone to drink tinto de verano, and she scoffed, "Feh--the Spaniards are terrible! They have no palate!"

I thought this was a little culturally judgmental. Because wine and soda is pretty clever.

But tomatoes in the fridge: NO cultural relativism!

11:44 AM  

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