July 15th marks the huge exodus when Valencians leave the sweltering city and head off to the beaches or mountainous regions to cool off. For our family, our refuge is my father-in-law’s hometown of Montserrat, just 40 kilometers from Valencia’s city center. Although the region is quite dry, many people in our town have farms just ten minutes outside of the city and are able to grow a variety of vegetables and fruits.
When you take a walk around Montserrat, you can easily spot the farm owners by the baskets of produce displayed outside their front doors. The summer is the time for grapes, melons, watermelons, peaches, plums, pears … and a big variety of greens. One day, we came back with a huge bag of green beans and I discovered something new about our family!
As we were paying for the beans, the senyora asked my husband who his parents were. Our town is so small, that usually you can’t walk down the street without seeing someone you know and having a quick chat. The senyora didn’t recognize our faces. She quickly became curious about our whereabouts. My husband told her who his father was by giving her his first and last name, but it didn’t seem to ring a bell. Then he told her which street we lived on and the color of our house. These details began to click and soon she recalled a face. She described the color of my father-in-law’s hair and the roundness of his face and then she immediately said “Aha! Tomateta!”
My husband nodded as soon as she said the word tomateta. She smiled and nodded back and then started naming all of his relatives. As we left her doorstep, she told us to make sure to give her regards to Tomateta.
Tomateta in Valencian, stands for little tomato and I had no idea why this woman was calling my beloved father-in-law a tomato. When we returned home, I told my in-laws what happened with the green beans lady and they chuckled. I quickly found out that in our town and like most other small towns in Spain, every family is known by their nickname and these nicknames are inherited and passed down from generation to generation. It seems that some generations ago, someone in my father-in-law’s family had a very round face, so round that it resembled the shape of a tomato, and that is how the nickname of Tomateta was born. Now I know that when I walk down the street, I am the daughter-in-law of Tomateta and my daughters are Tomateta’s granddaughters. It’s good to know your place.
(I have seen some Farmer’s Markets in Prague selling green beans more often, hopefully you’ll get lucky and find some!)
1 bag of green beans
½ red onion, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 can of tuna
¼-1/2 cup of olive oil
Wash beans and cut in half.
Boil in lightly salted water for 25 minutes or until tender.
Drain and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the beans, tuna and onions.
In a small bowl, add the lemon juice and olive oil.
With a fork, blend the liquids together.
Add some salt if needed.
Pour the dressing over the beans and gently mix together.
Serve at room temperature and enjoy!