Tomato Rhapsody: A Fable of Love, Lust and Forbidden Fruit - By Adam Schell

For Noodle and Asher.

Truly, my heart is full.

a cognizant original v5 release october 14 2010


In Which We Become Acquainted With:

Davido, a young Ebreo tomato farmer

Mari, a young Cattolica olive farmer

Nonno, grandfather to Davido

Cosimo di Pucci de’ Meducci III, Grand Duke of Tuscany

The Good Padre, the village’s new priest

Giuseppe, the villainous owner of the village

olive orchard and oil factory

Benito, henchman to Giuseppe

Bobo the Fool, the village fool

Luigi Campoverde, chef for Cosimo di Pucci de’ Meducci

Bertolli, altar boy at the Good Padre’s church


Late August, sometime in the 16th century. A small village in the Tuscan countryside. The tomato has just arrived in Tuscany by way of a group of newly countrified Ebrei from Florence. Tomato sauce has yet to be discovered.

In Which We Learn

How an Ebreo

Travels Best in Tuscany

Nonno looked east across the roll of his farm at that particular moment in a late-summer dawn when the soon-to-be-risen sun threw an expectant hue of orange and purple across the horizon. It was a beautiful sight, indeed, but the day-breaking spectrum held a bit too much uncertainty for Nonno’s comfort. The old man scrunched his eyes for better focus and continued his gaze outward, searching the horizon for some small harbinger affirming that their travels today would go safely and that he was doing what was best for his grandson. Then, in the distance, it lumbered into view.

It was the obstinate old stud, the one inherited along with the farm and the one Nonno loved the most. The donkey paused along the eastern border of the land, atop a slight knoll and between a pair of ancient fig trees. This alone was a sublime image, but when the gnarled beast suddenly dropped its prodigious cazzone to dangle before the horizon, careened its head upward and let go with an impassioned bray, Nonno knew the God of Abraham would be with him and his grandson as they traveled to Florence.

The mournful cry erupted from the donkey’s mouth and filled Nonno’s ears as profoundly as the sounding of a shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Against the still morning it was a sound of such magnitude that it rose from the horizon like a gust of wind billowing a ship’s sails and drawing all hands to deck. Songbirds quieted and competing roosters halted in mid-crow as the lonely bellow ballooned to a mass, teetered on its own enormity and began to roll across the land. The sound, robust, anxious, a touch melancholy, tumbled across the farm, hurdling row upon row of tomato plants before leaping the old farm’s wall. It rambled down valley and over hill. It combed through grape vineyards and rustled about olive orchards. It rumbled up the road and breached the village walls. It echoed through narrow streets and wide piazzas. It moaned in wine barrels and whistled through empty oil jugs, moving every like creature to concur until the entire countryside rang with the chorus of a thousand lonely donkeys.

Allied with the crisp dawn air and amethyst horizon, the bray had a supernatural quality that affected and connected all of our tale’s characters. To begin with, it put a smile on the face of the Good Padre as he tended the church’s vegetable garden. It eased the anguish of Cosimo di Pucci de’ Meducci the Third, Grand Duke of Tuscany, after an awful week in Rome. It disturbed the stomach of Chef Luigi Campoverde as he stuffed ground pork and veal into sausage casings with fennel, sage, salt and yellow raisins. It startled and annoyed Giuseppe, as did anything that seemed to emanate from a power greater than himself, while it thrilled both Benito and Bobo the Fool for the very reason it unnerved their boss. With amorous serendipity it caused our heroine, Mari, to pause while stirring a batch of her favorite olives at the very same moment our hero, Davido, paused as he loaded a basket with tomatoes.

But for Nonno, the sound of an obstinate and misunderstood beast of burden wailing against an uncaring world was a physical and aural incarnation of what it meant to be an Ebreo in a gentile world, and a tear of both sadness and joy streaked the old man’s face. By ways unexpected and through loss unimaginable, Nonno had managed to relocate his family and closest of kin from the ghetto of Florence, with its vicious plagues and politics, to a safer home and farm in the country. A place, he wished, where his extended family could peaceably prosper.

Though all the children who lived on the