Myths about Diet and Food

Beefburger and Chips
Beefburger and French Fries is it healthy?

Everyone has their own opinions about nutrition and health. Many of these, however, are fads or ideas they read online somewhere or heard from someone else. This can lead to false generalizations and claims that can make one become obsessive about the foods they’re eating or avoiding. While there is a lot more to it, here are 5 common myths about nutrition that I love to debunk!

Being careful of what you eat. Measuring calories.

1.  Healthy foods means I can eat more of it 

While I wish this one was true, unfortunately it’s probably the furthest from the truth. Your body is like a scale. You take in calories and you expend calories. An average person of about 70 kilograms with an active lifestyle needs about 2,000 calories per day. A good rule of thumb is to calculate 30 calories per kilogram of body weight. If you want to lose or gain weight you will have to adjust the amount of calories. One pound  (453g) is about 3500 calories, so eating 500 extra calories per day every week will, in theory, make you gain a pound a week! This can add up throughout the months or years without even realizing it. So, while eating a bunch of healthy nutritious foods, like bananas (which are high in sugar) or avocados (which are high in fat) is great, remember that the calories still count!

There are many ways of losing weight.

2. Starving myself will make me lose weight 

Sometimes we skip a meal, whether it be accidental or intentional, which is perfectly okay. Our bodies are designed for this. We store unused energy, called glycogen, to sustain us throughout the day and night while we aren’t eating. However, when we frequently skip meals our bodies will take the food you do eat and store it into fat, a long term storage, since it doesn’t know when it will get its next meal. Frequently skipping meals will slow your metabolism and can ultimately make you gain weight. Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day will increase your metabolism and maintain your energy.

Skinny Dog
This is not necessarily healthy

3. Skinny = healthy 

Unfortunately, today’s media has distorted our image of an ideal body physique. Skinny models and celebrities have made us think the thinner the sexier. For some this is probably the most difficult theory to unlearn.  Eating healthy foods regularly and staying active is in my opinion the sexiest. A scale can’t determine if you’re at nutritional risk. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat? Try exercising regularly with a combination of cardio and resistance training without obsessing over it. There are many ways to throw in more activity in your day, for example taking the stairs instead of elevator or taking your dog on a daily walk after dinner.

Squashes contain a huge amount of vitamin A, as well as significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and folate. In terms of minerals, squash contains magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, calcium, and iron.

4. Vegetarians don’t get enough protein

Vegetarian diets are very common throughout the world. They can be in fact, quiet healthy, since you substitute a meat protein for a vegetable. Vegetables contain a lot of nutrients and fibre which is great for heart disease prevention. However, protein is also an essential nutrient that needs to be carefully monitored in vegetarians, and more importantly for vegans. While it needs to be considered, it’s not impossible!  Legumes, whole grains, eggs and diary products are a great source of protein for vegetarians (also for meat-eaters). So how much protein do you need per day? While it differs per individual a good rule of thumb is to calculate 0.8 grams for every kilogram of body weight. However, it doesn’t end there. You have dispensable (non-essential) and indispensable (essential) amino acids. This means there there are certain types of proteins that your body can’t make on its own and the only way to get it is with diet. A protein that contain the 9 essential amino acids is called a complete protein. Animal products are complete proteins and vegetarian proteins are incomplete, however, combining a legume and grain (for example beans and rice) can become a complete protein. For vegans, there is much more to it, since you are missing essential nutrients from animal products. These nutrients, such as vitamin B12 and iron, need to be supplemented and checked regularly by blood tests. So, vegetarians can absolutely get enough protein in their diets if they keep up with it. Also, just because you’re a meat eater doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a vegan or vegetarian meal once in a while.


5. There is one good diet that works for everyone

This is my favourite myth to debunk. Often you see a new book, or a celebrity claiming ¨This is the best way to lose weight.¨ Or a friend suggesting a diet that you’ve got to try. There are so many different diets out there, whether its low-carb, low-fat, gluten-free, sugar-free, cleanses, etc. The list goes on and on. So which one is the best? The truth is there is not a single magic miracle diet that works for everyone. Everyone is different and has different preferences. The best diet for you is one that you can adhere to the longest. So if you love bread, maybe a low-carb diet isn’t best for you, because you won’t be able to sustain it for long. Try something that works best for you, because in the end losing weight is about restricting your calories. Also, moderation is key. Anything in excess isn’t healthy, but that also doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself from enjoying life and enjoying your glass of wine with a piece of cheese now and again. Life is short!


Beware of Sugar

Fructose and Sucrose. Strawberry and granulated sugar.

These days, sugar gets a bad rap. Sugar, however, its a natural part of life and what our bodies live off of every single day. There are many different forms of sugar, or carbohydrates, that occur in the world. The sugar that we use for energy is called glucose. Everything we eat eventually gets converted to glucose to give our body energy to function. However, the foods that we usually eat don’t occur as glucose. For example, fruit contains fructose, milk contains lactose, malt contains maltose. When looking at ingredients, words that end in -ose or contain the word ‘syrup’ will generally be a sugar.

Since sugar or carbohydrates are necessary for human digestion, there’s no reason to avoid them. However, it is important not to have too much of it. Unfortunately, in today’s society, it’s a little more difficult to watch out for. Processed and fast foods are all around us and readily available anywhere we go. These processed foods generally contain loads of hidden added sugar. Why do you think most commercially produced breakfast cereals tastes so good?!  Manufacturers hide these sugars in the ingredients lists with unrecognizable names such as dextrose or sucrose. They also might have names that deceive you into thinking they are natural or healthy sugars, such as corn syrup, molasses, beet sugar, or rice syrups just to name a few. These are highly processed sugars that, according to research, can lead to weight gain and diseases such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in arteries), high cholesterol and heart diseases. Processed sugars are refined and modified, and serve as empty calories, meaning they don’t add any nutritional benefits or carry any nutrients.

Carbohydrates are found in most foods including fruits, vegetables and grains. A carbohydrate contains 4 calories per gram (proteins also contain 4 calories per gram, while fats contain 9 calories per gram). Carbohydrates can serve between 30-50% of your daily calories every day depending on one’s diet. However, added sugars found in candies and processed foods are different since they don’t serve a nutritional purpose and should be limited. Some health agencies recommend limiting your added sugar intake to 50 grams, or 10% of your calories per day. However, it is possible to consume a lot less or avoid it completely. Most people who have taken added sugar out of their diet have said to feeling more energized, healthier and slimmer.

While eating fruits and vegetables is important in one’s diet, there is such thing as too much. Some fruits contain a lot of sugar, which can spike your blood sugar levels and make you feel tired, cranky or moody when it crashes again moments later. A banana, for example, contain about 16 grams of sugar and when consumed on an empty stomach can make your blood sugar spike. Try eating it with some protein or healthy fats, such as a sugar-free nut butter, to control the rise of your blood sugar. Juices are also something to be careful for. While juices can contain healthy nutrients and vitamins, they are also very concentrated with sugar (commercial products usually also have added sugar). A normal serving size is only 4 fluid ounces, or half of a cup! With apple juice, that’s already 11 grams of sugar. In my opinion you’re better off eating an apple since you’ll get the benefits of the fibre with the same amount of sugar and nutrients.

Written by Lisanne.

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GMOs and the Malthusian Specter: The Case of Golden Rice

Golden Rice and White Rice
Golden Rice. A GMO type of rice with added vitamin A

In 1798, Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus warned the world of impending disaster. He theorized that the human population, growing exponentially, would soon become so immense that the food it required would surpass the food it could grow. But as the Industrial Revolution thrust ahead into the nineteenth century, bringing forth advancements in agricultural production, the world heaved a sigh of relief that Malthus was wrong, and new industrial man scoffed at Malthus’s failure to credit human ingenuity with its due regard. For the moment, we had overcome the Reverend’s gnawing little problem. However, at the time that Malthus was warning us about our food supply, the global population numbered just one billion. Today, as 7.6 billion people are expected to become eight within a decade, the specter of Malthus arises to warn us once again. Food insecurity has crept back into view. What will be our new revolution?

This time, with mechanical means of agriculture already highly developed, we turn not to engineers, but to biologists. And just as the radical leaps in industrial technology met with its Luddites, so the modern biological age of agriculture contends with its own neigh-sayers. But we ought not be hasty to dismiss their doubt as alarmist: the modern answer to Malthus involves supplanting the food supply with genetically-modified organisms, or GMOs. In other words, today’s Luddites aren’t simply disaffected workers but an entire human species concerned with the long-term health problems arising out of genetic tooling. Many worry that the very miracle products meant to save us from starvation may sooner impair our global health and that of posterity.

One case of genetic food engineering still on trial by global opinion is the recent innovation known as “golden rice.” Golden rice is a genetically modified rice grain that has been biologically altered to include vitamin-A, a vitamin necessary to human survival and eyesight. The creation is dubbed “golden” because of the hue it takes on when the vitamin-A is added. Vitamin-A is the same vitamin that gives carrots and pumpkins their bright orange color, thus turning this new rice from white to gold. The benefit of golden rice, however, does not come from its lofty name or brilliant sheen but from its vital global health potentiality. The World Health Organization (WHO) has persistently warned of the deleterious effects of vitamin-A deficiency (VAD) in many regions of the world.

Specifically, the WHO reports that VAD is the single most important cause of childhood blindness in developing countries” and that VAD contributes significantly “to morbidity and mortality from common childhood infections.” The United Nations International Childhood Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warns that VAD is the “leading cause of preventable childhood blindness and increases the risk of death from common childhood illnesses.” In the regions of the world where foods containing the vitamin-A are economically or agriculturally inaccessible, VAD poses a major health threat. The condition overwhelmingly affects poorer communities, particularly in the Pacific, Southeast Asian, and Sub-Saharan African regions. The WHO has officially named VAD a global public health concern on account of VAD’s vast reach and pervasiveness. Approximately one third of children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years suffer from VAD, and an estimated 250 million children suffer from VAD, with blindness occurring in 250,000 to 500,000 children each year. Of those children affected with blindness, half of them die within a year of going blind. All this despite VAD being highly preventable. The initial response to VAD, carried out by a number of health organizations around the world since the 1990s, was vitamin-A supplements. While this remedy helped reduce some incidence of death, it failed to reach much of the affected populations.

Enter golden rice. Rice itself is the crucial source of energy for a significant portion of the world population. Over 3.5 billion people depend on rice for at least 20% of their caloric intake. And while rice is third in global grain production after corn and wheat, it is cheaper and therefore the more prolific grain among economically poor regions of the world. Crucial to golden rice’s efficiency as a solution to VAD is rice’s role as a staple grain in developing Asian countries and Sub-Saharan Africa, the same regions where VAD occurs in high numbers. Thus, golden rice presents itself as an elegant solution to the VAD problem. In theory, if golden rice can be grown in place of regular rice in these Asian and African regions, VAD may be treated and prevented more effectively and economically than with the traditional vitamin-A supplement approach put forth by UNICEF and the WHO.

However, simply introducing vitamin-A into the rice of VAD regions is not as easy in practice as in principle. As with all GMO foodstuffs, health questions arise. The countries targeted by golden rice have serious concerns about unintended side effects from consuming biologically-engineered rice. As golden rice development continues, these countries will push for stronger evidence that the rice is safe to eat before allowing mass production for their people. Already there has been serious resistance to the product among organizations such as Greenpeace and by the populations of some VAD countries. In one instance in 2013, hundreds of protesters in the Philippines uprooted golden rice crops that had been planted in the country for field testing, displaying the yet undetermined fate of this health innovation. As of today, testing and development of golden rice continues, and mass appeal for the miracle grain is left up in the air. Developers of golden rice hope their invention can step out from the shadow of more contentious GMO products, but its fate is left to the tension of science, fact, and global caution.

Today, the question of our modern food insecurity problem is yet left undetermined. The international controversy surrounding the pros and cons of genetically modified foods will continue to pit the celebrators of scientific discovery against the pragmatic representatives of regional health concerns. Meanwhile the Malthusian clock is whirring in the background: one in nine people on earth suffers from chronic undernourishment, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Many are optimistic that our modern answers to the global heath and scarcity issues brought by population growth, golden rice among them, will unravel a new age of food security. Others stay weary that in the end, we may be left with the bitter taste of scientific heroism gone wrong. Nonetheless, it is crucial that the debate remain focused, not on unsupported optimism or irrational fears, but on the facts of the case.

Written by Roberto T.

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Interesting Facts about Wine

Wine press
Sam And Heather pressing wine

The earliest known traces of wine are from China (c. 7000 BC). Mead, also called honey wine, is created by fermenting honey with water. The French are the biggest wine drinkers in the world. They drink 53 litres per person per year.  (this fact is disputed because it is said that the Vatican drinks 73 litres per capita)  People who are scared of wine have “oenophobia”.

Alcoholic beverages, including wine, are forbidden under most interpretations of Islamic law.  Within ten years of the death of  Mohammed in A.D. 632, wine was largely banned from muslim countries. Top sommeliers think that smell is by far the most important sense when it comes to drinking wine.

The custom of raising a glass to one another and saying “cheers” before drinking originated with the Romans and the Greeks, who used to offer wine to their gods before celebrations. The world’s oldest bottle of wine is over 1600 years old and can be found at a museum in Germany. It was buried nearby in 350 CE and was found again in 1867.

There is scientific evidence that moderate, regular wine drinking can reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and gum disease. Heir to the British  throne, Prince Charles,  drives an Aston Martin DB5 that’s powered almost entirely by wine derived bioethanol. It is a convertible and the wine powered car  averages 300 miles per year.

It takes about 4 or 5 years for a newly planted grape vine to get to full production. A single celled organism called yeast converts the sugar in grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and also release heat in the process.  70% of the alcohol is produced in the first 7 days of fermentation. This is called primary fermentation.  At the start the wine can ferment so fast that it appears to be boiling.  If the yeast converts all the sugar into alcohol it is a dry wine.  Wine ferments fastest at 21C.  Yeast will die at 37C.

The pomace left over after pressing wine.

Pomace is the solid remains of grapes, olives, or other fruit after pressing for juice or oil. It contains the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of the fruit. Wine fermenting at high temperatures creates more acetaldehyde which is a chemical which can produce hangovers so it is best if the wine does not ferment too fast.  The  largest wine producers in the world are France, Italy, and Spain.  Michael Jackson used to order his wine served in diet coke cans during flights, due to being a ‘private drinker’ and not wanting his kids to see him drinking alcohol.

In a blind tasting it is very difficult for most people to differentiate between red wine and white wine (try this at home if you don’t believe it) .  The Romans added lead to wine in order to give it a sweet taste and pleasant texture.  Some people believe that the decline of the Roman empire was due to lead poisoning. For purists wine glasses should always be held by the stem and not the bowl because the heat of the hand will raise the temperature of the wine.

Enologists are wine chemists who analyze samples of wine and advise winemakers. In the late 19th century most of the vinyards in Europe were destroyed by the  phylloxera epidemic because some infected vine cuttings were intoduced from America.  Phylloxera is a type of aphid which sucks the sap of the vine. American vines have adapted  a defence mechanism against phylloxera.  Nowadays, most vines in Europe have American roots and the top of the vines are grafted onto the rootstock.

Vineyards buy ready grafted dormant plants and plant them in the ground in winter. It takes at least 4 years before many grapes can be picked.  The color for red wine comes from the skins.  Hardly any varietys of grapes have red flesh.  Grapes contain all the necesary ingredients to make wine, the yeast is found on the skin  and all the sugar and nutrients are found in the grape.  A high concentration of alcohol will kill the yeast so the maximum  strength of normal wine is  generally around 15% alcohol by volume, but the exact amount will depend on the type of yeast.

Here are 3 videos of very small scale wine production in Spain showing the process of pressing the wine.



What is wrong with yummy?

Yummy ice cream
Justine Linda and Amanda enjoying a yummy ice cream

Over the last few years I have steadily developed a dislike for the word yummy. Just reading the word or hearing it uttered causes a mild distress. This may be similar to prudes or boring old farts who balk at the use of the ‘F’ word or are horrified at the ‘C’ word. How is it possible to dislike a word? What has caused this apparently irrational phobia? Over the last few days I have done some research into the word “yummy” in an attempt understand my condition.

The first line of enquiry centers around my dislike of infantile regression. That is, adults speaking like children, for example “the likkle doggie did a whoopsie in the housy”. There are other examples of child speak that I shy away from for example I have never liked the word pooh I have always preferred to say “shit” although for some reason the American word “poop” is OK. I have a “cock” not a “willy” a stomach not a “tummy” and a mom not a mommy. However, who says that the word yummy is a child’s word? Some online dictionaries say that the word “yummy” is onomatopoeic ie, a word that is an imitation of an actual sound, for example cuckoo, meow, honk, ping or boom. But who makes the sound of “yum” when they are eating? Unless you hadn’t eaten in three weeks and then fell into a vat of melted chocolate nobody would make a sound anywhere near the “yum” sound. Apart from the fact that “yummy” sounds a bit childish, the only strong link between the word yummy and children is the rhyme “yum-yum pigs bum apple pie and chewing gum”.

So, what is the etymology of the word yummy? The word has existed in dictionaries since 1899 and yum-yum as an exclamation of pleasure is recorded since 1878. This is the explanation given in several etymology dictionaries. In Senegal the word for food is “nyami” but that is just a coincidence. The best explanation of the origin of the word yummy is the following. Yummy comes from the ‘Yum’. This word comes from the Sanskrit mantra ‘Yum’ which is said during meditation. It helps to focus concentration on love and good things. The meditator would repeat Yum, Yum, Yum. Those traveling to India in the 1800s picked up on this. So now, if we think something is tasty and good, we think of joy, and say ‘Yum’. There is a you tube video of someone doing the “yum yum” meditation here.  That explanation gives a very pleasant slant on the yummy word and it makes me feel bad about not liking it. By the way the opposite of “yum” is “yuck” maybe this is the Sanskrit version of yin and yang.

Maybe a reason why I don’t like “yummy” is because we grow a lot of produce on our land and I am often scouring internet for recipes. Many food blogs are written by “popcorn assed muthafukas” ie (A person who is lame; in actions, speech, or overall demeanor). By the way, I found this expression on spotify in the lyrics of a song sung by a band called “yummy”. This may seem a little harsh and maybe I am just showing off by swearing but it is very annoying when I am trying to find a recipe and the author is just a middle class basterd who insists on telling everyone about the most trivial aspects of their lives interspersed with lashings of “yummies”, “yum-yums” and “yums”. Don’t they realise that the allotted praise phrases for this type of blog are “simply divine” or “utterly heavenly”. There may be a slight bit of English style class intolerance here, something akin to Arthur Scargill’s hatred of the filofax in the 1980’s.

There is another reason I don’t like “yummy”. The pedantic schoolteacher in me wishes that everyone were not so lazy and would have more imagination when using adjectives. Everything is not just “nice” or “cool”. Get off your mental arse and think of some more descriptive adjectives to describe things. Here are 160 to start with.

Acidic, Acrid, Aged, Amazing, Ambrosial, Appealing, Appetizing, Awesome, Bad, Bitter, Bittersweet, Bland, Brilliant, Burnt, Buttery, Chalky, Cheesy, Chewy, Chocolaty, Citrusy, Cool, Creamy, Crispy, Crumbly, Crunchy, Crusty, Delectable, Delicious, Delightful, Distasteful , Divine, Doughy, Dry, Dry, Dull, Eggy, Enjoyable, Enticing, Excellent, Exquisite, Extraordinary, Fantastic, Fatty, Fiery, Finger, Fishy, Fit For A King, Fizzy, Flakey, Flat, Flavor, Flavorful, Fresh, Fried, Fruity, Full-Bodied, Gamey, Garlicky, Gelatinous, Gingery, Glazed, Good, Gooey, Grainy, Greasy, Gritty, Harsh, Hearty, Heavenly, Heavy, Herbal, Horrible, Hot, Icy, Infused, Juicy, Juicy, Lean, Lemony, Light, Like, Lip, Luscious, Malty, Marvelous, Mashed, Meaty, Mellow, Mild, Minty, Moist, Mouthwatering, Mushy, Nectarous, Nutty, Oily, Oniony, Out Of This World, Overripe, Palatable, Peppery, Pickled, Piquant , Plain, Pleasant, Pleasant Tasting, Pleasing, Powdery, Raw, Refreshing, Rich, Ripe, Roasted, Robust, Rubbery, Runny, Salty, Sapid , Satisfying, Sautéed, Savory, Scrumptious, Seared, Seasoned, Sharp, Silky, Slimy, Smokey, Smooth, Soggy, Soupy, Sour, Spicy, Spongy, Stale, Sticky, Stringy, Strong, Succulent, Sugary, Super, Superb, Sweet, Sweet-And-Sour, Syrupy, Tangy, Tantalizing, Tart, Tasteless, Tasty, Tender, Terrific, Toasted, Tough, Unflavored, Unseasoned, Velvety, Vinegary, Watery, Wonderful, Yummy

If you need to see some of  these words used in sentences or learn how to use them in Spanish. Click here to see help with food adjectives in Spanish

Interesting facts about tomatoes – Information about the tomato

Interesting facts about tomatoes


1.  The tomato is a fruit originally from what is now Peru, they were first used as food by the Aztecs in Southern Mexico. The aztec name for a tomato meant `plump thing with a navel´. Even though tomatoes are botanically classified as a fruit because they have seeds and grow from a flowering plant, the United States Supreme Court classified tomatoes as a vegetable based on the fact that they are usually eaten with dinner and not a dessert so they could be taxed.

2. China is the world’s largest producer of tomatoes, producing a quarter of the global total in 2009. The second largest producer is USA and the third India.

3. There are around 7500 tomato varieties around the world. Most varieties are red although tomatoes can also be green, yellow, orange, pink, black, brown, white or purple.

4. Tomatoes are a good source of antioxidants which benefit heart health and help protect against types of cancer. Surprisingly, cooked tomatoes are in fact more healthy than raw ones, as the cooking process releases more beneficial chemicals. Additionally, tomatoes are a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

5. La Tomatina in Spain is the largest tomato fight in the world. Approximately 40 00 people gather and approximately 150 000 tomatoes are thrown. The first tomatoes were brought to Europe in the 1500’s.

6. Holding the Guinness World Record for heaviest tomato is a tomato weighing 3.51 kg, or 7 lb 12 oz. It was grown in 1986 in Oklahoma, USA. Tomatoes increase in weight as the ripen, even after picking.

7. Eating tomatoes can help to block UV rays, making it a sort of natural internal sunscreen.

8. Tomatoes are related to potatoes, ground cherries, red pepper, eggplant, and nightshade. Because of their relation to nightshade, people used to be afraid to eat tomatoes, but they would still grow them for their looks.

9. Tomato seeds have actually been grown in space!

10. Tomatoes can be used for beauty! Because of their lycopene, vitamin A, and acid they can be used for acne treatment, facial toning, hair cleansing and moisturizing, reducing pore size and wrinkles, and treating oily skin! Lycopene is also important for the prostate health of men.


1. What was the meaning of the Aztec name for tomato? (plump thing with a navel)

2. According to the Supreme Court are tomatoes a fruit or vegetable? (vegetable)

3. Who produced a quarter of the world’s tomatoes in 2009? (China)

4. Who is the world’s third largest producer of tomatoes? (India)

5. The number 7500 refers to what? (number of tomato varieties worldwide)

6. Are there blue tomatoes? (no)

7. What are some benefits of the antioxidants in tomatoes? (heart health, cancer fighting)

8. Are raw or cooked tomatoes healthier? (cooked)

9. When were the first tomatoes brought to Europe? (1500’s)

10. How many tomatoes are thrown at La Tomatina? (150 000)

11. Where is Oklahoma? (USA)

12. When do tomatoes stop increasing in weight? (they don’t)

13. Eating tomatoes can block what rays? (UV)

14. Are apples a cousin of tomatoes? (no)

15. Why were people scared to eat tomatoes? (similar to nightshade)

16. Do tomatoes only grow on Earth? (no)

17. Why are tomatoes good for men? (lycopene for prostate health)

18. Name an alternative use for tomatoes. (skincare/beauty)



gazpacho – A Spanish cold tomato soup

salmorejo –  A thicker version of gazpcho

how to preserve tomatoes – How to eat your own tomatoes all year around