Let me tell you a story about a tomato.
This isn’t any ordinary tomato; this is a giant 4-foot-wide, 50-pound fibreglass tomato that sat proudly in front of an East Side Mario’s restaurant in Peterborough, Ontario next to its bigger brother. (For those of you not in the know, East Side Mario’s is a beloved Canadian treasure, a restaurant chain described in these pages as “the Cheesecake Factory of Italian food.”)
This is a tomato that disappeared without a trace four years ago and then, last weekend, reappeared out of nowhere.
Matt Kraft, the owner of this particular East Side Mario’s, told VICE that this was a special tomato. He loved this tomato as he did his customers and staff.
But then one day, a terrible, terrible day in May 2016, the tomato was gone. Kraft said that he didn’t notice at first. An employee came in and asked what was up with the tomato, and only then did Kraft realize that something dreadful had happened.
Kraft contacted the media who ran stories on the missing solanum lycopersicum. He received “calls from all over Ontario” offering him tips about large fake tomatoes spotted in the wild but it was to no avail; they weren’t his.
Seasons passed but then, long after he had given up hope—bada-boom-bada-bing! The tomato showed up in a nearby park last week.
Kraft told me he got a call from a jogger about the tomato on April 25 and went to investigate it himself. Sure enough, on a park trail close enough to the road that a truck could back up and drop it off, there it was: His tomato!
Even though it was a little dusty, it was as fresh as a brand new fibreglass tomato could be. ‘It‘s in excellent condition,” said Kraft. “Clearly, they had left it for someone to find. They didn‘t just throw it in the river, dump it in the woods or something. They put it where someone could find it.
“They wanted it to go home.”
Kraft says he and his son manhandled the 50-pounder into the back of a truck and the two brought it back to its former home and bolted it to the ground. With his lovely red beefsteak tom back, he’s holding no hard feelings.
“My wife said to the perpetrators of this crime that because they returned it, clearly riddled with guilt, and put it in a place where it could be found that they are forgiven for their evil deeds,” said Kraft.
While the strong can forgive, that’s just not good enough for us intrepid investigators, is it? We need to find out the truth, so here are some hypotheses I humbly put forward about what happened to our beloved big red.
Who stole the tomato?
A rival large-fake-tomato owner
Kraft said he was flooded with tips when his tomato went missing. One tip in particular seemed promising: a picture of a tomato in Fenlon Falls, a small town a half-hour drive from Peterborough, that bore an uncanny resemblance to his tomato.
"I'm looking at the picture and all our staff is like, ‘Let's go get our tomato back!’ And they all want to pile in the van and take off to Fenlon Falls and grab our tomato off these people’s front lawn."
But upon closer inspection, Kraft noticed the stem and leaves of the tomato in the picture were metal whereas his tomato's stem was fibreglass.
So Kraft held his troops back. “They were incensed. Glad I didn't let them go up there,” he said, laughing. “They probably would’ve ripped it out of the ground or burned their barn down. Just picture the torch-bearing villagers going after the monster kind of thing.”
Now let me take you on an adventure of the mind. Imagine a large-fake-tomato-owning couple in Fenlon Falls who, over time, have built their entire personality around their large-fake-tomato. Now I want you to imagine that couple finding out that a gosh darn “Italian” restaurant was displaying not one but TWO big tomatoes. Well, you can’t have that. So in the dark of night, they climbed into their 1998 Ford Ranger and puttered down to Peterborough, loaded Kraft’s tomato up into a truck box, and scooted it away. Now, with two tomatoes in their possession they are finally the Tomato King and Queen of Ontario! Monsters!
As to why they returned it during a pandemic, I haven’t the slightest clue. Maybe they decided that if they were to ascend to the throne of the Ontario tomato monarchy they must do it fairly.
It would be foolish to think this is anything but the most obvious explanation. Drunk teenagers are to blame for at least 37.4 percent of crimes worldwide by my calculations. This is also Kraft’s working theory—that after a night of debauchery that only teenagers can manage they ended up with a tomato and regrets.
I won’t lie, when I was a pup I took part in some, shall we say, mildly illegal activities with my fellow idiots in my hometown of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. I remember spray-painting a power box with “(REDACTED FRIEND'S FULL NAME) OWES ME MONEY” in an area I knew his dad would see (my friend had some words with me after and I never did get my money). Other stories fit more closely to the tomato hijacking but because I don’t know Alberta’s statute of limitations I’m not going into them but please know I’m very, very sorry. So I acknowledge that the idea of teenagers stealing a giant tomato makes total sense.
That said, this theory falls apart when you start thinking about storage. Now, presumably, the teenagers live at home with their parents and you would like to think that, after four years, the parents would somehow come to see a giant-ass tomato; remember, this was in good shape so the perp stored it somewhere like a garage or basement. Unless we’re dealing with some chill-ass parents with some room to spare, this is probably not what happened.
I’m looking at you, the 38-year-olds all hopped up on The National and stories of your youth, or you, the drunk 22-year-old all hopped up on Lucky Lager and actual youth.
It's easy to picture a car full of drunk idiotic adults (and one dumbass DD) passing by an East Side Mario’s in their vehicle—the then 18-year-olds in a '03 Ford Focus and the 34-year-olds in their '13 Honda CRV—and deciding it was time to free the tomato from its prison.
As for why they decided to return it, well, for the now 22-year-olds, their four-year post-secondary career (there are several colleges near the East Side Mario’s) in Peterborough has sadly come to an end. When vacating their student lodging, they decided the tomato no longer needed to be an uncomfortable chair and should be returned to its rightful owners.
For the now 38-year-old, their partner probably found it, belittled them for their stupid decisions, and told them, “Return that goddamn tomato, for fuck’s sake. Taylor never did shit like this.”
If you have your own theories about who stole the tomato I would love to hear them. Please email my editor email@example.com and go into as much detail as you can.
Kraft has a far kinder explanation for an adult who stole this. “I think the guilt just got to them,” he said. “Maybe COVID is bringing out the good in some people.”
This one seems obvious since we’ve decided that the good singer from Blink-182 has pretty much proven aliens exist. Just earlier this week the Pentagon declassified three UFO videos and former minority leader Harry Reid said they “only scratched the surface.”
What if the aliens, who stole the tomato for testing purposes, wanted to give us a nod for figuring out they exist, and decided to return the beefsteak? Obviously, they now have some confused notions about what life on Earth is but that’s on them for being giant intergalactic idiots and abducting a fake fruit.
This would lead us to believe that aliens think Peterborough is the human capital of the world and while part of me wants me to accept this, I can’t. At least go for Sudbury, guys. Jeez.
If Martin Scorsese’s films have taught me anything it’s that the Mafia likes nothing more than a good jar of homemade marinara—preferably the way Mama (or Clemenza) made it. And we know that the Mafia is rather active in Ontario so they could have been in Peterborough.
Plus, do you know what the Mafia likes? Big houses, big suits, large amounts of money, large amounts of drugs—BIG THINGS! So it reasons they would like big tomatoes.
So, the theory goes, ‘Mato-Lovin’ Joey Seedz stole this tomato as a prize to show the boys. But when the pandemic hit, the criminals wanted to make a bathtub of tomato sauce for, you know, Mafia reasons, and decided it was finally time to cut into their prize tomato. But when they took their knives to its ripe red flesh they found out it wasn’t real. Angering them with something fierce they decided to send a warning to the rest of the growers in central Ontario. Much like the horse head in the bed, this was the tomato in the park.
Yeah, this makes sense.
It was you
Did you steal a big tomato, you piece of shit? Huh, did you? Did the guilt of that big ol’ red sucker gathering dust in your garage after you heisted it for your sick reasons eat you from the inside out? Was this tomato your heart beating quietly under the floor forever reminding you off your misdeeds? Do you still hear it beating even though you finally returned the tomato after four years of sleepless nights?
Was it you? I know you did it. Tell me. I need to know what happened to this tomato. Please tell me.
Follow Mack Lamoureux on Twitter.