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The Tomato Effect: It Won’t Work Because It Won’t Work

August 7, 2015

Sorry to be so long between posts. Today, I’m writing about tomatoes, because I need to ketchup…  : )BlankVertSpace.4pixels

Well, you learn something new every day. In theory, anyway.

I recently learned about a phenomenon called The Tomato Effect. And no, it’s not about acid reflux. It’s the brain acting up, not the stomach.

It all began when I came across an old sketch, and decided to finish it. What prompted this drawing? Dunno. I’ve heard of the film Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes, but I’ve never actually seen it. Perhaps hearing about it was enough. Here’s the finished illustration:blank vertical space, 24 pixels highMan frightened panicky because tomato has come to life baring its teeth angry swearingblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

One interesting note about color: Our tomato is clearly using some bad language. Originally I put a cloud of blue smoke around the little swear word symbols. That’s because the color blue is associated with being risqué. A blue joke is a dirty joke.

But the blue cloud didn’t work. It looked all wrong. Gradually, through trial and error,
I found the right color combination. When tomatoes swear and cuss, they do it in red, orange, green, and yellow. I can’t prove it, but I’m sure of it… : )blank vertical space, 32 pixels highMan frightened panicky because tomato has come to life baring its teeth angry swearing compare blue cuss cloud to red-orange cloudblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

I’ve been doing a lot with quotes lately. I tell clients that illustrated quotes are ideal for social media marketing. People share them for both the humor and the quote itself. Add your website URL at the bottom, and your name will get around.

So I went looking (googling) for a “tomato quote,” and found this charming thought from writer Lewis Grizzard:blank vertical space, 32 pixels highMan with killer tomato baring its teeth and swearing Lewis Grizzard quote about pleasant thoughts while eating homegrown tomatoblank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Here’s where my new learning experience comes in: I was shocked to discover people
once feared tomatoes. They considered them poisonous (tomatoes are part of the nightshade family).

Legend has it that, in America, anti-tomato prejudice was finally overcome when Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson publicly consumed a basketful on the courthouse steps
of Salem, NJ, in 1820, before a large crowd. When he failed to collapse and die, opinions began to change. Since this dramatic historical event did not appear in print until 1948, it probably never happened. Great legend, tho.BlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.4pixels

Which brings us to The Tomato Effect: people refused to eat tomatoes because “everyone knew” they were poisonous. It was common knowledge– and it was wrong.

Dr. James Goodwin is credited with coining the term in a medical journal article in 1984: “The tomato effect in medicine occurs when an efficacious treatment for a certain disease is ignored or rejected because it does not ‘make sense’ in light of the accepted theories of disease mechanism and drug interaction.”

In other words: a treatment is rejected because everyone knows it won’t work.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Here’s the sad part: The Tomato Effect isn’t limited to medicine. We embrace it every day. All of us.

We don’t take a course because we know it’ll be boring. We don’t sign up for that tuba lesson because we know it’s hopeless, it’s too hard, we’ll never get it. We don’t say hello
to someone because we know they won’t say hi back. And on and on. Missing out on who knows how many opportunities because we know, just know, it won’t work.


And on that cheerful philosophical note, here’s a detail image. Here’s lookin’ at you, my fine tomato!!blank vertical space, 32 pixels highdetail image Man frightened panicky because tomato has come to life baring its teeth angry swearing

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Do you eat a lot of tomatoes?– or does your stomach tell you to just say no?

Ever seen Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes? Did it give you a morbid fear of salad bars??

Now that you know about the Tomato Effect, will you be open to trying something new?

Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2015 12:58 PM Incontournable …!!!


    • August 11, 2015 9:19 AM

      Ah, mais oui– La Tomatina!! Yes, it’s wonderful how so many people get together every year to make ketchup!! Not to be missed, and it’s almost time to make the scene!! I’ll see you there, sir, and don’t forget your goggles!! : )

      Oui, il est merveilleux de voir comment tant de gens se réunissent chaque année pour faire le ketchup!! À ne pas manquer, et il est presque temps de faire de la scène!! Je te vois là, monsieur, et ne pas oublier vos lunettes!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  2. August 8, 2015 3:27 PM

    Hi Mark, nice to read you. Just wonder which fruit might be a symbol for “yes it will work, because I belive it will work”.
    I agree with you a 100%, tomatos speaks in red and orange. Your first was perhaps a foreigner in a strange language…?


    • August 11, 2015 12:14 PM

      My dear Tutti! Now that you have walked into my garden, all the tomatoes are smiling, because they recognize a fellow mischief-maker… : )

      Hmm… a fruit symbolizing optimism, and a can-do spirit… I believe that would be the bratwurst, which blooms in Germany throughout the year… : )

      A foreign tomato, speaking a strange blue language– brilliant! I think you’ve solved the mystery. The lesson seems clear: if you want colorful language (reds and oranges), then stick with native tomatoes, not the imported kind!! Thank you for visiting Armstrong’s Farm Stand, Home Of Naughty Talking Vegetables!! : )


  3. August 9, 2015 4:15 AM

    I love the whole story you found to share behind one tomato, you really exploit elements to the best, it’s pretty impressive
    great work on this one! And thanks to you, now that I know about the tomato effect, I think next time, I’ll try out something I wouldn’t normally try


    • August 11, 2015 12:38 PM

      Who would have thought that tomatoes would have such a colorful history?? Do you suppose the same can be said of other vegetables?? I shall have to do some research and write a book: The Shocking Sordid Stories Behind Those Innocent-Looking Things In Your Salad. Yes– with a title like that, I’ll sell a million copies, become rich, and spend all my time at farmers markets buying disreputable veggies… : )

      Thanks so much for your kind words, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post– I can see it’s made you a more adventurous person!! : )


      • August 11, 2015 1:21 PM

        It would be very interesting to discover those kind of stories behind objects of our daily life that we don’t accord that much thought to!
        Get that idea patented, it could result in something pretty nice! 🙂
        If you want veggies, come in my village, that’s the only thing we do in my region in france :’)

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 11, 2015 2:39 PM

          Ha! I see the locals in your village driving vegetables thru the streets like sheep– I’m sure there’s a good cartoon in there somewhere! : )


        • August 11, 2015 3:56 PM

          All of them screaming: baaaaaaaaaaaaa ( I guess that’s how we could write a sheep’s voice?
          If there is, I’m sure you’ll be able to make the most of it! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. August 9, 2015 2:40 PM

    I had no idea about this!
    So medically speaking, it sounds like the opposite of the Placebo Effect!
    Cheers to Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson for being ‘brave’ enough to eat all those tomatoes and convince people it’s harmless!
    1. I eat lots of tomatoes – my stomach likes them!
    2. Never seen the Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes.
    3. Yes, I am always open to new things
    To the important stf now:
    Yes, it’s been very long between posts for a devoted fan… I nearly had to be submitted to a Mark Armstrong rehab center.
    Getting my Mark fix right now!
    I love your mean tomato and the swear cloud!
    Sigh… one more brilliant illustration …of course!
    Merci!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 11, 2015 6:33 PM

      Yippee-yahoo-woo-hoo!! I couldn’t get any higher if I was lyin’ onna 300-pound tomato and it exploded and sent me 100 miles in the air into Red Cloud Country on a tomato juice geyser!! Whoa! A Mark Armstrong rehab center–! Pardon me while I flip my lid, and repeat!! What a concept: a fan suffering from MA blog post withdrawal! Excuse me while I jump out the window a few times, and come right back!!

      My dear Marina!! Your juicy comment had me roaring with laughter and delight, and beamin’ like a ripe tomato!! Not surprised to hear you can eat tomatoes without fear– your natural sweetness would, of course, neutralize the acid. And who needs tomato movies when we’ve got Greek mythology, with its tales of cookouts on Mt. Olympus, where happy revelers put the nectar of the gods on their hamburgers instead of ketchup! No surprise that you’re open to new things, I’m sure they serve as inspiration for your lovely paintings.

      Thanks for that extremely robust vine-ripened comment!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  5. August 9, 2015 4:33 PM

    Hi Mark,
    Yes, it has been a long time between posts for you – as long as you have been using your time creatively – I’m sure you have 🙂
    I’ve seen the movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I can say with confidence, you haven’t missed anything.
    Love the graphic! Stellar, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 11, 2015 5:18 PM

      AM R-K! Great to see you and all four of your capital letters! Yes, I have been using my time creatively: I’ve been sleeping in trees, in gutters, on flagpoles, on tadpoles, in quicksand, in sand traps and sandboxes, etc., etc. I may be a sloth, but I try to express my slothfulness creatively… : )

      You’ve seen Attack Of The Squishy Ruby Red Pseudo-Fruits?? Hmm. Why yam I not surprised? Because you’re a woman who seeks out enriching cultural experiences, is why. Especially Vitamin C-enriched cultural experiences. Thanks for the review, I shall discreetly scratch it off my Tomato Bushel List– er, Bucket List… : )

      Always a pleasure, thanks for crashing the blog!


  6. soul . to . earth permalink
    August 10, 2015 9:20 PM

    As summer laid spring down to bed,
    Many-a-tomato started seeing red!
    In a life sans the pomodoro
    Meatballs are such a bore, oh!
    Wherever would San Marzano be
    Without their speciale pomodori?
    ‘Tis bruschetta, antipasto and Caprese
    That make food worth the praise, eh?
    Be they pelati or cubetti in form,
    May tomatoes always be the norm.
    From the top of my head to-mah-toes, I pray
    May the rosso tomato never fade away!

    Your tomato sketch made me cherry, oops, cheery – thanks for the laughs, Mark! I hope such praise made your cheeks blush red as a tomato? 😀 Enjoy the rest of your summer.


    • August 14, 2015 11:28 AM

      Once upon a midnight rainy, while I pondered, quite insanely
      O’er a curious tomato sketch-a
      While I nodded, very groggy, thought I’d check my WordPress bloggy
      I almost croaked just like a froggy (rhymes can be an awful stretch-a),
      ’Twas a comment from Radhika, wordsmith fair and punster-seeker
      At playful verse none can out-peak her, was I pleased? oh yes, you betcha

      I had to google pomodoro (then did the same for San Marzano)
      Pelati? Cubetti? Some form of spaghetti??
      While I pondered o’er bruschetta, in walked a raven whom I had met-a
      In a bar down on the corner, playing harmonica with Jack Hohner
      Said he, Her verse is very spry, she must have gone to UMumbai
      Her poesy’s tart, and sweet as treacle! Could any sonneteer be her equal??
      (I asked, voice rising to a scream)
      Quoth the Raven “No way, old bean.”

      My dear Radhika! You have outdone yourself! Is there anything juicier than Tomato Verse?? It hit me very forcefully– SPLAT! It also made me laugh with delight. Wonderfully erudite rhymes and puns. From the top of my head to-mah-toes was the topper– I really guffawed when I read that!! My cheeks are indeed blushing– with pleasure and gratitude. Thanks for that lovely poem, and for being so generous with your wit and merriment. : )


      • soul . to . earth permalink
        August 14, 2015 3:32 PM

        😀 ROFL!!! Love and appreciate your wit, Mark (How u bean, ‘ol friend?).

        FYI – Pelati = peeled, cubetti = cubed – from San Marzano canned tomatoes. I get mine at Costco coz Italian tomatoes certainly ‘curry flavour’ w/ all Indian food. It’s an odd match that makes for a great marriage. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  7. August 11, 2015 5:57 PM

    Fascinating, fascinating! Love the illustration. YES!
    So interesting how the blue didn’t work as well behind the “blue” language. Your final choice is super! And they’re tomato colors, too. 😉
    As late as the 1920’s people had misgivings about tomatoes. When she was a young mother, my Grandmother (born in 1894, I think) absolutely believed that tomatoes BECAME poisonous if they were frozen. Apparently it was “common knowledge.” Not sure when folks decided tomatoes weren’t really out to get them. I guess the people who made the movie never did. Ha!!

    So sad, so true: “The Tomato Effect isn’t limited to medicine. We embrace it every day. All of us.”

    By the way, you inspired me to look up the varieties of tomatoes. Some of the names are cool! “German Johnson” and “Moneymaker” are two that stood out. Also, “Flamenco” and “Adoration.”

    Another delicious post, Mark!!!


    • August 17, 2015 8:29 AM

      My dear Robin! Many thanks for your juicy and robust comment, and I do apologize for being late here with my reply (I was fending off an attack from German “Jaws” Johnson and “Murd’rous” Moneymaker, the notorious tomato assassins… : )

      Yes, you being the Ultimate Color-meister, I was sure you’d be intrigued by the evolution of the cuss words color scheme! A triumph of the visual over the verbal, you might say… : )

      Your Granny was in the Tomatoes Are Poisonous camp?? Grandmothers of that era often relied on “folk wisdom,” not all of it good. My own grandmother often delivered devastating cautions in the form of unverifiable anecdotes. I remember coming inside once, after running around on a hot summer day, turning on the tap till the water got really cold, then drinking a big glass straight down. Said grandmother: “I knew a girl once who drank a glass of ice water straight down like that and died.” Gulp! Pass the poison tomatoes, please!!

      Funny about the tomatoes names. Until I wrote this post, I really had no idea there were so many varieties. Thanks for visiting ye ol’ blog garden and dispensing your usual kindness and good cheer!! : )


  8. August 26, 2015 11:02 PM

    ♬ ♪ You say tomato, I say to-mah-to; you say potato, I say po-tah-to. Let’s call the whole thing off! ♪ ♬

    You are right about the color of tomato swear words, and I’m pretty sure potatoes swear in blue. I may have told you this story before, but in case I didn’t … When I was twelve, my dad made me mow the grass. Humph! I had three brothers! One of them should have been mowing the grass. Regardless, while I was slogging through the front yard with the mower, a truck drove by, and a bunch of high school boys stood up in the bed and threw tomatoes at me! They were the swearing kind of tomatoes, and there was a lot of red, orange, green, and yellow flying by (or was that me who was swearing?). I never mowed a lawn again. I refuse!

    Once again, you show us a fabulous illustration. Nicely done! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 28, 2015 4:08 PM

      Whoa! I don’t think I’ve ever had a singing comment before– complete with cool little musical notes!! I’ve called the whole thing off with potatoes a few times– especially if I’m in a cafeteria line, and somebody thunks ’em on my plate with some kinda scoop! Even an undiscriminating palette has to draw the line somewhere… : )

      What a great story, and no, I hadn’t heard it! I could see it clearly in my mind’s eye, and must confess I guffawed (discreetly). Your father and your brothers were clearly lazy louts. As for the tomato throwing, everyone knows young hooligans only throw tomatoes at pretty girls they like, because some puberty weirdness makes it impossible to declare their affection. So I’m not surprised you were a target, dear Maddie, and I sure hope yer pappy didn’t make you clean up the mess!! : )


  9. August 28, 2015 7:53 AM

    Loved your toothed tomato Mark although, I hope, I don’t have an attack of the killer tomatoes nightmare tonight!

    It was interesting that you felt the blue didn’t quite work around the tomato. I read an article that suggested different colours have an effect on our appetites and guess what? Blue is supposed to be an appetite suppressant!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 28, 2015 3:52 PM

      Jen! How lovely to see you! I was just thinking about you because I had resolved to catch up on blog visits. I called up my list of favorite bloggers, and there you were!– expect me soon! : )

      Tomatoes with teeth– who thought up that idea, anyway?? We’re supposed to be the ones with teeth. Well, at least if we remember to brush and floss once in awhile… : )

      I’d never heard that bit about the color blue being an appetite suppressant. Hmm… it’s never seemed to affect my eating blueberry pancakes. Of course, it’s possible that if I didn’t include blueberries, I might end up eating 20 pancakes instead of just 19… : )

      Wonderful to see you, hope all is well. We’re headed into fall here, which means you must be getting close to spring!!


  10. August 29, 2015 10:42 AM

    Oh, Mark, I feel so sorry for those legions of people who never ate a tomato. When I was a teen and lived in farm country, I remember picking them from our garden. Beefsteak tomatoes are my favorite. They were wonderful with just salt. Add lettuce, mayo, bacon and bread and you have a divine meal.

    That tomato is probably cussing up a storm because he was so misunderstood. Thanks for clearing the air with your delightful illustrations.

    I’ve heard of the “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” but never saw the movie. Your wise words on “The Tomato Effect” has opened me up to new possibilities. Thanks. 😉


    • September 10, 2015 8:09 AM

      What a delightful comment– thanks, Judy! You made me think of my dad: he grew up on a farm, and he used to say this about tomatoes: that there was nothing better than walking thru a garden on a summer afternoon with a salt shaker in your hand… : )

      In researching the post, I came across an article in Smithsonian that said the tomato’s bad rep was caused by pewter plates. Here’s the relevant passage:

      In the late 1700s, a large percentage of Europeans feared the tomato. A nickname for the fruit was the “poison apple” because it was thought that aristocrats got sick and died after eating them, but the truth of the matter was that wealthy Europeans used pewter plates, which were high in lead content. Because tomatoes are so high in acidity, when placed on this particular tableware, the fruit would leach lead from the plate, resulting in many deaths from lead poisoning. No one made this connection between plate and poison at the time; the tomato was picked as the culprit.

      Which is why I always use paper plates, even tho they make a mess in the dishwasher… : )

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lily permalink
    September 7, 2015 3:46 PM

    From now on, whenever I decide to brave something new, I will bring a tomato with me for encouragement! Or maybe a basketful like Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson…

    It’s a good thing I love tomatoes 🙂

    I like how you managed to take an ordinary everyday object (well, fruit!) and turn it into a funny thought-provoking message. Yet another Mark Armstrong classic! 🙂


    • September 10, 2015 8:23 AM

      My dear Lily! Have I told you lately that you’re one of the great sustaining forces in the universe?? It’s the truth!– and I know Colonel Robert Gibbon “Tomato Man” Johnson would agree with me… : )

      Thank you for that very supportive and morale-boosting comment! Very glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, it’s funny how even the most mundane things seem to have lessons to teach us, if we only stop for a moment and pay attention. That’s why I always fall into deep meditation in the produce section of supermarkets, and have to be placed in a cart and wheeled out to my car… : )

      Always great to see you, thanks so much for being your charming self!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

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