Favorites: September 2006 Archives

Tomato Soup

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Is there any sense that can bring on nostalgia as quickly as the sense of smell? While driving in my car today I inexplicably, ever so briefly, caught a whiff of tomato soup. It took me back to Davis, California, where I lived during five years of grad school and for a couple more years after Mike was born. Davis is in Yolo County, which is the center of California tomato country, where some 90% of the tomatoes produced in the U.S. are grown. Consequently, there was a Hunt-Wesson cannery in Davis, which may still be there for all I know.

Right around this time of year the tomatoes were harvested and brought to the cannery in gondola trucks, which spilled them out onto the overpass at Mace Boulevard, each truck spilling a few until a slippery mass of crushed tomato formed and cars with old tires slipped and slid and occasionally failed to make it up the hill.

The cooking of vast quantities of tomatoes produced a wonderful smell that filled the air in Davis for days. Oddly, I don't think soup was canned there, nevertheless the smell was that of tomato soup . Every year I was overcome by a craving for tomato soup. I made late-night soup runs; I stocked up on soup and saltines; I heated the soup in a small sauce pan and sat down to soup and crackers with the kind of anticipation usually reserved for Thanksgiving dinners.

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