TOMāTOES / TOMăTOS
During a sweltering heat wave over the early summer, I got a curious hankering for a taste of ripe heirloom tomatoes.Maybe it was fond memories of my childhood picking fresh tomatoes from my mother’s garden in the equally unpleasant heat of Minnesota, dowsing them with salt and eating them perfectly fresh, dripping seeds and juice over my chin and tank top. Maybe it was just me getting impatient for my young family’s personal garden to provide us the mature fruits we patiently craved. Or maybe I just wanted something small, red and iconic to place in the beautiful daylight streaming in my San Francisco food photography studio’s 8 feet tall windows.
Whatever propelled me, I was now on the hunt. I set off to that legendary bastion of Bay Area veggie lovers, Berkeley Bowl. I was quite confident they would have not only good variety of tomatoes to choose from as the perfect photography prop, but also plenty of the tastiest ones you could find, short of a crowded weekend farmer’s market.I was not to be disappointed.
Berkeley Bowl is the jackpot for foodies looking to find endless oodles of rare and exotic produce. Many a photo shoot had prompted me to walk these aisles gathering up delectables iconic and cute. There is never a dull moment at that store, for a vegan or a dedicated food photographer. After collecting my tomato booty (as well as the inevitable dragon fruit and locally brewed organic extra spicy ginger beer), I grinned with excitement the whole drive back to my Union Square photography studio. I got back and set up just as the sun was hitting the window at that primo spot I relished, a 3pm slice of rays that streamed between historic buildings and famous hotels to create the perfect softbox effect as it bounced off concrete walls.I had some warm, worn and slightly washed wood slats waiting as my single photographic backdrop. A few minimal props were waiting in cue outside the stocked prop room – plates, bowls and a Martha Stewart cake plate. Yes sir, I was hungry to capture some stunning photographs before the sun passed out of its sweet spot behind the Westin St Francis, and all my tools were laid out before me like a disciplined chef.I ended the day fat, sweaty and happy. I had fought the battle of the tomato slinging and came out triumphant with quite a few nice finished photographs to show for it. I took home the remaining pieces to share with my wife and two young sons, and we all dipped them together nostalgically into disappearing dollops of sea salt, laughing and smiling the entire time. Heirloom, for sure.