You say tomato; I say tomato. But luckily, they're not
calling the whole thing off.
Among the various idiosyncrasies that amount to New
Orleans's je ne sais quoi, one would be remiss to not include its
festive atmosphere. The Crescent City might be alone in boasting more
celebrations than there are days in the year. No list of the city's motley
holiday calendar would be complete without the annual Creole Tomato Festival.
Picture Bubba from Forrest
Gump making latrines shine while monotoning, "Shrimp soup, shrimp pasta,
shrimp étoufée," and so on ad nauseum. Only this time, it's with tomatoes:
tomato pie, tomato flatbread, tomato sandwich, etc. The Creole Tomato Festival,
needless to say, celebrates all things tomato with its own little southeastern
It feels almost quaint scrolling through the Festival's Facebook page, which
recent months have given the feeling of a time capsule. In addition to the live
bands on stage at the traditional French Market location, there's footage of an
eating competition—a line of people bent at 90-degree angles over a card table with
their hands behind their back. It's something so banal yet difficult to view
without cringing at the various ways people are violating quarantine etiquette.
Alas, this year, there won't be anyone bobbing for tomatoes
in a wood barrel nor anything else quite so hokey. This year, if you want to
catch the bands' performances, it will have to be on Facebook or Instagram. It
would be misleading, however, to call the plan for this summer "virtual" and
leave it at that.
It seems that the Creole Tomato Fest people, in their
wisdom, have come up with some in-person and safe alternatives for experiencing
their favorite vegetable-like fruit this year. Around a dozen restaurants will
be offering to-go and/or dine-in (depending on the establishment's reopening
status) tomato options on the weekend of June 13-14, the festival's run time.
The restaurant lineup includes Andrea's Restaurant, Gris Gris, Broussard's,
Lakeview Harbor and Patois, and others.
There will also be two farmers' markets that weekend, one
for Saturday and Sunday each. The one on Saturday is slated to be a "pop-up"
farmers' market in the Bywater. And the other on Sunday will be a drive-thru to
be found at the famous Parkway Bakery. (Who ever heard of a drive-thru farmers'
market? But it's a sign of the times. We're just living in them.)
The Creole Tomato Fest is something of a pioneer in terms of
going online with their celebration. As the coronavirus quarantine continues
into the summer, you can bet that they won't be the last. Other festival
organizations could look to Tomato Fest as a model. Their partially online,
partially in-person plan promises the kind of compromise that will keep people
safe while also entertaining them and honoring this city's proud traditions.