All Eyes on the Salad Bar
Felipe’s salsa is suffering and students are despondent as draught drags on
“Tomatoes are a wonderful thing,” Schmidt says. “A fresh tomato picked out of a summer garden…”
But summer is long gone. Cases that normally sell for $10 have shot to $60. That means tough times for Cambridge restaurants, and zero fresh slices for first-years like Schmidt.
Harvard University Dining Services has kept tomatoes on its catering menu (serving delicacies like tomato and mozzarella salad to the elite) but has cut the red fruit from dining halls in the name of equality.
“It wouldn’t be fair or financially responsible to offer them only in Eliot—or everywhere,” says Crista Martin, assistant director for marketing. In lieu of fresh produce stand canned sauces and salsa.
At Star Market in nearby Somerville, prices and sales are steady. “If you like tomatoes, you’re going to buy them almost whatever the price is, unless it gets outrageous,” says Shane Walsh, manager. Price hikes haven’t reached the grocery store because the store often buys in advance.
But high prices have hurt traditional nighttime haunts like Pinocchio’s.
“What are you going to do?” asks Luciano J. Dana, a pizza maker. “If they want tomatoes, you gotta serve tomatoes.”
Felipe L. Herrera, co-owner of Felipe’s Taqueria, says that since Thanksgiving, prices have been “crazy.” Twelve boxes of tomatoes are used daily just to make the salsa. He’s cut salsa servings by one third to make up for a five-fold price hike—the highest price in 20 years, he claims. It’s better than charging extra or taking tomatoes off the menu as others have.
“We try to keep the customers happy,” Herrera says. But it doesn’t always work. “They get mad. They say, ‘We want more.’”
More tomatoes—especially cheaper, tastier ones—will be coming soon, according to the Florida Tomato Committee, which oversees the Sunshine State’s tomato industry. One week before Thanksgiving, tomato growers were packing 35 percent of normal volumes. Last week, tomato shipments were up to 75 percent.
Soon, perhaps, Schmidt’s sandwich will become a reality.