The setting is Bunol spain in the heart of Valencia. It is early morning on the last Wednesday in August and the streets of Bunol are clean, quiet and deserted. But that won’t last for long because today is the festival of La Tomatina. When the shot from a starting pistol pierces the air at 11:00 a.m. mayhem will reign and the streets will begin to run red with the flesh and juices of ripe tomatoes being hurled at anyone who finds himself on the street.
For 60 years, the town of Buñol has been home to La Tomatina which started in the forties when some friends started a tomato fight in the main square for reasons no longer known. Over the years La Tomatina has evolved into a weeklong celebration that culminates in a battle where the townspeople (and over 20 thousand tourists from around the world) pelt each other with ripe tomatoes brought in by the truck loads specifically for this event. The days leading up to the short but epic battle are filled with parades, fireworks, food and street parties.
Then, early Wednesday morning, shopkeepers and business owners along the Plaza start covering windows and doors in preparation for the messy battle. Large trucks rumble up the cobblestone streets, arriving in the crowd-filled square and, from the back of these huge trucks, official instigators begin the tomato tirade by pelting the awaiting warriors with their vegetable cargo: sloppy, squishy tomatoes from the four corners of Spain. The revelers take up the battle call and about a half an hour and 150,000 tomatoes later everyone reconciles with their former targets and heads to the river to clean up.
We’re not suggesting that you wage your own tomato war, but La Tomatina is so much fun. Why not host a Tomatina themed party or dinner during the month of August? The cuisine of Spain offers so many recipes that are perfect for your Tomatina fun. Start out with a Catalonian Pa amb Tomaquet (tomato bread) and Gazpacho or Salmorejo. Serve Paella Valenciana, typical of the region where Buñol is located, and traditionally served during the Tomatina street parties. The tomato is a key ingredient in so many Spanish dishes you’ll have not difficulty putting together an appropriate menu. Just be careful if your guests arrive with bags of overripe tomatoes and a mischievous gleam in their eyes. You might just have a messy Tomato fight on your hands.