What Is a Good Tomato? A Case of Valuing in Practice

  • Frank Heuts Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Annemarie Mol Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract

As a contribution to the field of valuation studies this article lays out a number of lessons that follow from an exploratory inquiry into ‘good tomatoes’. We held interviews with tomato experts (developers, growers, sellers, processors, professional cooks and so-called consumers) in the Netherlands and analysed the transcriptions carefully. Grouping our informants’ concerns with tomatoes into clusters, we differentiate between five registers of valuing. These have to do with money, handling, historical time, what it is to be natural, and sensual appeal. There are tensions between and within these registers that lead to clashes and compromises. Accordingly, valuing tomatoes does not fit into inclusive formal schemes. Neither is it simply a matter of making judgements. Our informants told us how they know whether a tomato is good, but also revealed what they do to make tomatoes good. Their valuing includes activities such as pruning tomato plants and preparing tomato dishes. But if such activities are meant to make tomatoes good, success is never guaranteed. This prompts us to import the notion of care. Care does not offer control, but involves sustained and respectful tinkering towards improvement. Which is not to say in the end the tomatoes our informants care for are good. In the end these tomatoes get eaten. And while eating performs tomatoes as ‘good to eat’, it also finishes them off. Valuing may lead on to destruction. An important lesson for valuation studies indeed.

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Published
2013-11-27
How to Cite
Heuts, Frank, and Annemarie Mol. 2013. “What Is a Good Tomato? A Case of Valuing in Practice”. Valuation Studies 1 (2), 125-46. https://doi.org/10.3384/vs.2001-5992.1312125.
Section
Articles