On Saturday, I walked a mile from my Brooklyn apartment to a farmers’ market with a clarity of purpose that felt ordained by the heavens. I didn’t really have time for the errand, or a solid idea of how I would use its spoils, but I was compelled onto the sidewalk for a very specific task. It’s tomato season, and I was a woman in want of tomatoes.
I don’t know when tomatoes became an object of such obsession for me, but they seem to have grown similarly important to nearly everyone I know. Tomatoes are in season every summer, but this year the internet has turned tomato season into Tomato Season. Both food media and regular people have latched onto the idea with a fervor that feels more wild-eyed and ubiquitous than in previous years. I hiked to the farmers’ market on a hot, busy day because friends on Instagram and Twitter had posted so many photos of its impossible bounty—the straw that broke the camel’s back, after two weeks of watching them share recipes for tomato sandwiches and panzanellas and tomato-ricotta tarts.
By this month’s standards, a celebration of late-summer produce is an uncharacteristically gentle development online. On the same morning I decided I couldn’t go on living without enough tomatoes to last me the week, news broke that Jeffrey Epstein, the sex offender awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking, had died by apparent suicide in jail, setting off a Rube Goldberg machine of conspiracy theories about who might be responsible. That news piled on top of a summer in which thousands of migrant children have been held in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions at detention centers at the southern U.S. border and dozens of Americans have been murdered in a rash of mass shootings.