The Day a Tomato Made Me Love Carrots

Spicy Carrot Spread (Vegan)

Spicy Carrot Spread (Vegan)

Bright colors, robust flavors, unusual combinations: these are the foods I crave. Spicy Carrot Spread with Garlic Yogurt hits all my buttons. As a bonus, the recipe is quick and easy. I make it often. I bring it to parties. I have it for breakfast. I leave out the yogurt and serve it to vegans.

For parents who worry about picky-eater children, my story should give you hope. Until I was out of college, I didn’t eat colored food except under extreme duress (as in, you can’t leave the table until you finish your lima beans).

I lived on nice, safe neutrals: white food, tan food, yellow food. I wanted no nasty surprises, and filled my shopping cart with cottage cheese and pineapple, chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pies, eggs. Mind you, I could do wonders with eggs.

My life changed the day I ate my first tomato, fresh from the vine and warm from the sun. My memory of that tomato is so vivid, I can taste it right now.

On a hot August day in Oregon, Randy Baidas and I walked to our campus swimming pool and found an abandoned garden. The garden had been a spring semester class project that lost its student minders to summer vacation. Randy reached into the jumble and picked a perfect tomato: red, ripe, and, in retrospect, beautiful.

“Have a bite,” Randy encouraged.

“No thank you. Tomatoes aren’t my food.” I was firm, clear, and most emphatic.

“You have to have a bite. Watch, I’ll eat it first.” Randy bit into the tomato, juices and seeds dripping down his chin. I wasn’t impressed.

“Really, I’m sure it’s good, but I don’t eat raw tomatoes.”

“I don’t believe it. When was the last time you ate a tomato?” This was the start of Randy’s cross-examination, well executed as befit the law students we were.

Under pressure, I finally admitted I’d never eaten a raw tomato. With that admission, Randy smelled blood in the water. He pressured and cajoled and finally persuaded me to take just one bite.

That one bite challenged all my assumptions about food. Tart and sweet, warm and juicy, the tomato was the best thing I’d ever eaten. When I finished, Randy handed me another. In short order, my face and hands and arms were sticky with tomato juice.

Randy laughed his laugh of laughs at what he’d wrought. I laughed too; easily, joyously. When we finally jumped in the pool, all visible remnants of our tomato orgy disappeared. Inside, however, those tomatoes are with me still. They’re with me when I order the quirkiest food on a menu, or try a vegetable I’ve never before tasted. They lurk in every dish I cook, and every recipe I write.

This colorful recipe is dedicated to Randy Baidas, who inspired me to broaden my food palette and feast on food of color.

Be sure to check out the recipes mentioned in this post:



Jasmine and Fire : A Bittersweet Year in Beirut by Salma Abdelnour

Jasmine and Fire : A Bittersweet Year in Beirut by Salma Abdelnour

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10 Responses to The Day a Tomato Made Me Love Carrots

  1. Bob Thweatt says:

    I was lucky enough to taste this spicy carot spread last night, made by Laurie herself. It was absolutely delicious, and I will be using this recipe often!

  2. carole s says:

    sounds delightful!! great to have a recipe again, Laurie!

  3. I keep very few recipe books. Classic Turkish Cookery is one. Love this recipe.

    • CJ, you’re right, it’s an excellent book. It also has a recipe for lentils and carrots that I really like.

  4. Guaranteed we’d lick the bowl on this one — but I’m an easy sell. I have always loved brightly colored food and I’ll not give credit to the stepfather who whacked us with his fork if we didn’t clean our plates. I liked them before he showed up with the fork. I’ve got some rainbow carrots on the counter so gotta try it!

    • What is it with fathers and forks? Mine used to try to stab me with one when I ate with my fingers.

  5. Yassas! I just found your blog, looking for a Gigantes recipe. As a food lover, Greekophil ( I used to live in Greece, and return every summer), and Norwegian (I can relate to your Alaskan climate) I became immediately interested, and started reading through your old posts. I am amazed by your food knowledge and passion, which you communicate in a most inspiring and poetic way. I read a lot of food blogs, but yours really stand out. There is no doubt, reading your recipes, that you have great taste. So, I’ll subscribe 🙂
    Unfortunately my own food blog is in Norwegian only, but you may enjoy the photos. I’ll be posting from my recent yearly Greece trip soon. Efxaristou para poli! Elizabeth

    • Hi Elizabeth! So nice to hear from you – and thank you so much for your kind words!! I did look at your blog and, you’re right, I love the pictures. Can’t wait to see pictures from your recent Greek trip. Do you go to the same place every year? Do you have Greek family, or do you just love the weather and lifestyle?

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