The world’s best tomato festival, La Tomatina, is held in Buñol, Spain. The festival starts with the eating of many different tomato-based dishes. Yum! However, dining on the tomato is not the reason for La Tomatina’s extraordinary popularity. The festival hosts the world’s biggest tomato fight. Yippee.
Strangely enough this fun festival grew out of parade where musicians and people dressed up as giants and big heads. The local youth, decided to join the parade, as who would not? I mean giants and big heads. The teens got rambunctious. One of the marchers lost his fake head in the commotion. He became angry and started hitting all the young folks that came near him.
The teens took offense at this battery. As fate would have it, the young ones were next to a vegetable cart. The local youth grabbed tomatoes and other veggies and threw them at the battering marcher. Well, the aim of most people is rather poor and most of the hurled tomatoes missed their target. The people hit by these errant missiles got angry. So, they hurled tomatoes back. And missed. Hitting still others. Soon, the tomato tossing became general, just like all those bar fights in Western movies.
The following year, Buñol’s youth commemorated the event by staging a fake argument that deteriorated into a tomato-throwing free for all. The authorities, not foreseeing the tourist draw this tomato hurling would become, broke up the fight. But the tomato-hurling came back the next year. Now la Tomatina happens every year. Why? Because it’s such great fun. Locals hose down the participants. Authorities hose down the streets. So much citric acid, from the tomatoes, gets everywhere that the washed streets will sparkle.
I want to go to La Tomatina. So let’s go there some time. We’ll arrange a meeting. Stay tuned.
Authorities banned this tomato tossing once. Possibly to honor my birth. Possibly because police traditionally look askance at anything resembling a riot. Anyway, devotees of the festival protested this by carrying a huge tomato in a coffin through the center of town. Buñol’s authorities relented and from then on allowed the La Tomatina Festival to continue. Really! Is that all it takes to make the authorities relent? Just carry a tomato-laden coffin through town. (Writes this down for future reference.)
La Tomatina increases in popularity every year and occurs on the last Wednesday in August. Up to 100,000 people attend. It’s so popular that you must buy tickets to attend. Now, the world has finally taken notice. Similar events take place in Colorado, Nevada, Colombia, Costa Rica, China, and India. La Tomatina has made its way in to movies around the world and even into a Mickey Mouse(tm) episode.
Unfortunately, the festival was not held in 2020 and will not be held this year, because of the Covid pandemic. Let us strongly hope that we can soon, and safely, engage in boisterous fun once again.
Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef, Ph.D., travel adviser
My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.