Shenzhen tomato food fight stirs online controversy

Updated: 05 May 2014
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This holiday weekend, a Shenzhen fair called “Windows of the World” featured a tomato food fight as one of its exhibits to showcase international cultures. However, little did organizers know their pure intentions sowed the seeds of discontent as controversy grows over the perceived waste of food, reports Sina Weibo.

Participants donned raincoats and threw tomatoes at each other as spectators watched from outside behind a glass window. Starting May 1, the attraction has drawn hundreds of tourists each day.

For those unfamiliar with the tradition of splattering tomatoes, La Tomatina is a long-standing festival in Bunoi, Spain in which participants fling over-abundant crops of tomatoes at each other. Since it started over 70 years ago, La Tomatina has attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists and is emulated across the world including one held during the fall in Dongguan that consumes 15 tons of tomatoes.

However, vociferous objections have been vocal online. One netizen complained, “Has [China] become so great and powerful that it is able to waste food in order to achieve spiritual consolation?” while another said, “Farmers have it tough; as well, there are many people in China who don’t eat enough so that they can save money.”
 
And then there’s the bill: using yesterday’s wholesale cost of tomatoes of 4.2 yuan per kilogram as a standard, it costs RMB 3,150 everyday to equip revelers with 750 kg of projectiles.

A spokesperson for the Windows of the World justified the attraction as being simple “stress-relief” that is a good complement to the other international exhibits that allow visitors to experience other cultures without the need to leave the country. As well, the spokesperson claims the tomatoes are all bought overripe; this means that they are safer, more fragrant upon impact, and are in fact helping local markets by buying tomatoes that would otherwise be thrown out.

While it’s great that fair participants have the privilege to enjoy an activity that could only otherwise take place in garbage dumpsters around the city, it still seems as though a food fight is still not yet properly done in China. Wearing raincoats, food fighters have nothing at stake as they hurl unwanted food at each other that won’t ruin their clothes as a crowd watches this exchange safely from outside, trying to comprehend the enjoyment that has clearly escaped them.
 
The whole point of a food fight is that you’re wasting food that could otherwise be put to good use; unlike other projectile contests, your getting hit adds to your enjoyment as you break the taboo of wearing on your body what you should instead be eating.

If this attraction is to continue, we’d suggest for this tomato food fight along with other similar Chinese festivals with names including ”Grape Fight”, “Apple Art”, and “Orange Ocean” to introduce the concept properly: as an example of unabashed first-world decadence that China is still reluctant to embrace despite the advancement of its middle-class.

Meanwhile, this “counterfeit” food fight will only serve to reinforce the traditional belief that food should not go to waste, and that ketchup should be put on pizza.
 
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