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Eileen and horrible, terrible, no good, very bad fruit.

Since I’m in NY, and there’s just not that much I can say about this particular visit, I thought I’d peruse the old files and see what tales I could regale you with. Files being the ones on the computer, and also the ones in the brain.

And so I give to you (but not really, it’s just a picture), the dreaded tomate de arbol.

I like to call it “the dreaded tomate de arbol”, much like I like to refer to the aftermath of an unfortunate decision to rest a cup of cocoa on the hanging mousepad on my computer tray on my desk at the publishing company as “the great cocoa spill of 1998.”

The dreaded tomate de arbol is a fruit I first came in contact with in Ecuador, and I later saw it on Colombia on a family trip. It grows from a kind of tree (thus the “arbol” part), and looks a bit like a roma tomato, though it is rounder and a bit pointy at the end. The truly unfortunate thing is that we had one of the trees at the house I was living in in Cuenca, Ecuador, and although we also had one of my favorite fruits, (blackberries) growing there nobody ever thought to make juice out of this, instead preferring the rusty, malty tomate de arbol for all juice and dessert occasions.

I assume it either tastes like something different to people who like it, or that it’s an acquired taste. I used to feel bad when Ecuadoreans would ask me how I liked it, as though I was insulting their mother’s apple pie, or something similar. The good news is that whenever anyone would ask me how I felt about it, I would immediately feint and dodge and talk about how much I loved the naranjilla, a fruit which needs no adjectival phrase to describe it (though you may call it delicious if you like).

Which if you think about it, isn’t a bad foil for what to do when someone asks you how you like anything you don’t like. For example, sopaipillas pasadas, or those fried disks of dough in gummy sweet sauce so common on rainy days like those coming in Santiago. I start talking about porotos granados or some other Chilean dish I like. It’s the culinary equivalent of pointing over someone’s shoulder and saying, “Look, ducks!”

Want to try tomate de arbol in Santiago? Try the place I talked about here. And don’t say I didn’t warn you. Also: look, ducks!