There’s a Mustard Rebellion in my new novel BIG MOUTH: The students of Del Heiny Junior High #13 tag their school with mustard to rebel against the school’s tomato-obsessed sponsor, Del Heiny Ketchup Company. (Hey, if your mascot were changed from the Mighty Marauders to the Proud Plum Tomatoes, you’d have angst, too. At least Del Heiny Jr 13 didn’t get the Big Burpee tomato as a mascot. Life is hard enough without being a Big Burpee.) I invented the Mustard Revolution out of thin air; it was a natural outgrowth of a scenario in which a ketchup company sponsors a school district. But in one of those fantastic “Life Is Stranger Than Fiction” moments, I’ve since learned of a real town that conducts a condiment war of its own: BuÃ±ol, Spain, host of the annual La Tomatina, a festival in which tens of thousands of people hurl tomatoes at each other in what has to be the world’s biggest food fight.
Each year, municipal trucks dump 117 tons of plum tomatoes into BuÃ±ol’s main square (talk about Proud Plums!), where massive crowds grab the tomatoes and wind up, waiting only for the cue of a rocket fired from a medieval bell tower in town hall to let fly. Boom! Within minutes, BuÃ±ol’s streets are rivers of red mush and shrieking tomato tossers. Like an endless mosh pit at a rock concert, the crowds go on and on, and tomatoes fly every which way. Instigators in the tomato delivery trucks throw buckets of water at the crowds, adding to the mayhem. A second rocket signals the ceasefire a half hour later. Then BuÃ±ol’s dutiful residents fetch their garden hoses to spray down the dripping red warriors and the rest of the town.
That’s one way to make ketchup.
Legend has it that La Tomatina began in BuÃ±ol, which is 25 miles north of Valencia on Spain’s east coast, in the mid-1940s after a bunch of kids waged a food fight near a vegetable stand in the town square. They met again the next year and pelted each other , and passers-by , to start the annual tradition. Seventy years later, the festival draws tens of thousands of tomato throwers from around Spain and abroad. An estimated 40,000 people took part in the nationally televised event last year. An endless mosh pit, indeed.
La Tomatina is held each year on the last Wednesday in August. Hmm, the Halversons will be in England this August… and that’s not so far from Spain…. What do you think? Three three-year-olds, an endless supply of ripe tomatoes, and official permission to let fly . . .
*“Me and My Big Mouth…” is an occasional series about inspirations, backstories, and random stuff tucked into my teen novel BIG MOUTH. For more about BIG MOUTH, check out www.BigMouthTheBook.com or www.DeborahHalverson.com.
photos from www.Don Quixote.org under the sponsorship of the Madrid Chamber of Commerce