Tomato and Plum

We were at the check-out of an apple orchard near Charlottesville with our bags of Pink Ladies and Pippins, when I spied the crate filled with apple-shaped ketchup dispensers.

What the heck, we agreed. We’re never going to find the tomato, so we might as well buy one. Buy two, I said, I’ll give one to Mom.

Throughout my childhood a plastic tomato ketchup dispenser was a fixture on our kitchen table. What happened to it is a mystery for the ages; nobody will admit to throwing it away or remembering how it disappeared. But disappear it did and for some reason, I felt the need to have one at this stage of my life. Why is anybody’s guess…some connection with my childhood as exemplified by a kitschy 1960s plastic tomato? Evidently.

But one must have standards with these things and the cheap knock-offs on eBay simply will not do. I want the real McCoy, if possible. And so whenever we would pop into an antiques mall, one of us would head over to the kitchenware booths and give a futile look-see.

We left the mountainside orchard with our ersatz dispensers and headed home on unfamiliar country roads when the sign for an antiques mall just ahead appeared. You can guess what’s coming, right?

Yup, not an hour after officially giving up the years-long quest, there it was – just sitting there smugly next to a stack of pink Depression glass plates. The tomato ketchup dispenser.

Isn’t it always the way?

After composing myself, I headed over to the book stacks where my charmed day continued. Nestled in the dusty shelves I found a treasure; a marvelous and musty P.G. (Plum) Wodehouse anthology published in 1932 with foreword by Ogden Nash. To say I pounced eagerly upon it would be an understatement as no other writer has ever caused me to howl with laughter in the privacy of my living room quite like dear old Plum.


The introduction to Section One (JEEVES) reads as follows:

Presenting once more Jeeves, the one and only gentleman’s gentleman; and Bertie Wooster, his gilded charge; together with several ingenious stratagems employed by Jeeves on those occasions when Aunt was calling to Aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps.


I don’t which makes me happier….the tomato or the prospect of many hours looming ahead in the Wonderful World of Wodehouse. I think Door # 2.

Sorry, tomato. Plum wins this one.










About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. And the odd thought or two.
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63 Responses to Tomato and Plum

  1. suzicate says:

    Ha, I’ll bet I know which orchard this was…eons ago my dad was one of the crew managers, and I spent many a day there!
    What treasures! I, too, find what I want AFTER I get something else to take its place!
    Happy reading to you!


  2. Thom Hickey says:

    Charming. Great to hear you’re a PGW fan – a comic genius and an absolute master of the English language – every day is better for reading him. Thom.


    • Great to hear you are too, Thom! I could not agree more with every word you’ve written above. It is that rare and brilliant combination of “comic genius” and mastery of the language that makes him such an icon. And so we’ve gone from Wreckless Eric to Wodehouse in the course of a few posts. I love it!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Two ketchup dispensers and one Plum in one day is some going! Nothing like Wodehouse, is there, for making one laugh out loud…his golfing stories have me in stitches….the film industry ‘nodders’….but best – for me – the Blandings stuff. I remember laughing uncontrollably while reading Lord Emsworth and the Girlfriend while on the train to work under the scandalised gaze of my fellow passengers. They probably imagined that i must be ‘foreign’.


    • I wouldn’t be brave enough to read PGW in public knowing how he reduces me to a blithering idiot as one of his carefully constructed scenes of devastation unfolds! As to your fellow train passengers, Helen, maybe if you had held up your book for them to see the author, one or two would have smiled and thought, “Oh yes, I see.”


  4. Two treasures in one day. You do indeed live a charmed life! We are huge Plum fans in this house.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good choice. I should revisit P.G. Wodehouse too. Never a dull moment.


  6. Parnassus says:

    Hello Barbara, Congratulations on your serendipitous day. It’s so much fun buying back things that one used to own. I also like spotting such possessions when used as props in movies–have you ever seen your dispenser on the big or small screen?

    I brought a lot of Wodehouse books to Taipei, because it is difficult to imagine life without them. Now that I am down to my last few, I am carefully husbanding them, saving them for special treats.


    • Hello Jim! Why does it not surprise me that you feel as you do about PGW? I completely agree, as you know. We are not alone. There was a wonderful article in the Wall St. Journal a year or so ago which included this as proof that Wodehouse sentences made life worthwhile:

      “Like so many substantial citizens of America, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.”

      I mean what more is there to say?

      I never saw the tomato anywhere but our “early-marriage” orange juice dispenser is evidently quite popular in the Hollywood prop department!


  7. nrhatch says:

    Enjoy the Wonderful World of Wodehouse!

    I like to think of some scene, it doesn’t matter how crazy, and work backward and forward from it until eventually it becomes quite plausible and fits neatly into the story. I’ve just finished another novel, in fact . . . It really is funny. It’s worked out awfully well. I’m rather worried about the next one. It will be a letdown almost. I don’t want to be like Bernard Shaw. He turned out some awfully bad stuff in his nineties. He said he knew the stuff was bad but he couldn’t stop writing.

    ~ Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (a/k/a P.G. Wodehouse)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wonderful, wonderful, Nancy! I can picture your Granddad reading Plum for some reason. Thanks for this terrific quote which sheds a bit of light on the sometimes Keystone Kop-ish antics that occur in a PGW novel. The man was a genius really.


  8. Almost Iowa says:

    When you think about it, the dispensers solved the age old problem of coaxing ketchup out of a glass bottle. A problem recently solved by the plastic container that rests on its lid. How many years did it take to come up with that solution? Maybe Jeeves would know?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Eliza Waters says:

    Delightful post, Barbara. Congrats on finding the elusive tomato dispenser, I’m sure you will enjoy a cozy settling in with Wooster and Jeeves!


  10. Mary says:

    Oh the plastic tomato! I remember it well and all the funny sounds it made.


  11. joannesisco says:

    I feel so left out of the party. The plastic tomato never made it to my corner of the world in Northern Ontario … I was hoping you’d include a photo of it.
    … and as much as I’ve tried, I could never quite embrace PGW. I wanted to find the humour that everyone else seemed to love and enjoy … but the magic wasn’t there for me 😦

    … but I’m happy you’re happy! 🙂


  12. menomama3 says:

    I’m going to have to give Wodehouse another try. I loved the TV series but for some reason never got into the books.


    • And I never saw the TV series. It’s happened that books I’ve tried to read and failed to get into have subsequently resonated with me later in life. Not sure I would have found Plum quite as amusing in my twenties as I do now. You can tell that those of who love him are almost evangelical about it and those who don’t….well, they probably think we’re a bit daft. Dash it!!


  13. reocochran says:

    Oh, Barb! How clever you were in this title and post, my dear! I used to love to read about Jeeves and Bertie. I felt that Jeeves corralled and kept Bertie in place, just perfectly. I used to like reading to learn about British society…
    I did think we had plastic red and yellow long cylinders of ketchup and mustard, like old diners used to have, only they were kept ’empty’ until summertime. Then, they were placed on our counter or table, sometimes being put into a bag of sorts into the cooler, so the twist top of the containers didn’t somehow explode into the ice. So, no tomato-shaped containers at our house, Barb.
    We did have a few copies of P.D.Wodehouse, while my parents had a great bookcase full of nice books. By the way, I loved the foreword by Ogden Nash. Oh, how funny he was. I used to love his little sayings, or short poems. This was indeed a Plum of the best sort!


    • reocochran says:

      Oops, I meant to type P.G. but somehow my old Cleveland PD (or Plain Dealer) took over my fingers! You know what I meant, though! Smiles, xx


    • I can’t believe actually that I commingled poor dignified P. G. Wodehouse with a ketchup dispenser in the same post. The sacrilege of it all! Poor Plum is probably spinning in his grave right now at the very idea. Dashed Americans can never be trusted to remain highbrow long enough to get through a blog post properly! I remember the red and yellow plastic cylinders too. When I pulled the tomato out to show my mother, she and Dad burst out laughing. The funny thing is we don’t even use ketchup anymore except for the occasional summer cook-out, but I just had to have that dispenser! Robin, I’m so happy you enjoyed this silly little post. You’re a peach, and the apple of my eye, and….I can’t think of any other fruity sayings at the moment!!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. agwink1942 says:

    I’m so glad you found your tomato ketchup bottle Barbara. And doubly glad you found a wonderful book. I had a large collection of books, including Wodehouse, when I lived on the farm and had enough room for them. In my small apartment there is no room, so my kids have my books and all the rest of the things I loved and had no room to bring with me. Since we have always made our own ketchup, we just store it in the canning jars and put it on the table still in the jar, with a spoon stuck in the jar for serving yourself. My one regret is that my kids don’t carry on the tradition of making ketchup, but buy theirs at the grocery. Ah, well, I tried to teach them how easy it is to make it home made, but I can’t force feed them the good stuff now. They are bigger than I am.


  15. markbialczak says:

    Perfect, Barbara. Absolutely. The day of days.

    I think actually nodded to your P.G. in the first days by calling itself ask jeeves. Does anybody else think that’s a proper connection?

    That ketchup dispenser sounds like a peach. I wish we had one when I was growing up. And now. 🙂


  16. dorannrule says:

    Two absolutely charming finds Barbara! Bound to send you home smiling! I remember the day I found an ugly elk creamer at an antique store and had to have it because Mom had one in our breakfront for all my growing up years. It is truly ugly but has an honored place in my own breakfront now and it still makes me smile. 🙂


    • An elk creamer!! Is there a coordinating moose sugar bowl? And of course it has an honored place in your breakfront. How could it not? I love that so many of us have that certain priceless object. You see them sometimes at the end of Antiques Roadshow with their creamers and tomatoes after receiving their appraisals. Big smiles and no money!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Behind the Story says:

    What a charmed day! When we stop trying so hard, sometimes things happen. Giving up on finding the tomato dispenser reminds me of the couple who stop trying to get pregnant and adopt a child instead, only to get pregnant the following year.

    Very clever title.


  18. Jodi says:

    Well, my dear Barbara, I feel completely “out of the loop” and out of our “inner circle” here as I have never seen a tomato ketchup dispenser, and I am not familiar with PJW. Are you gasping?! So – do you have a recommendation for a first read from this author you and so many seem to adore?


  19. So did you also buy the other tomato dispenser at the antique shop? That whole experience is so cool! And to think, it all started with apples! I don’t know about Plum, but I love ketchup, and I love apples! So needless to say, I love this post! 😀 Congratulations on your finds! 😀


  20. It’s always when you stop looking that things turn up. Like library books the day after you pay the replacement fee. (But, honestly, who would look for a book under the mattress?)

    Adore P. G. Wodehouse but confess I haven’t read him for years. Laugh out loud funny. The others to make people at the blood bank stare at me are Terry Pratchett and Bill Bryson. 🙂


    • No sensible person would look for a book under the mattress, you’re absolutely right, H. I’m assuming blame can be placed squarely at the feet of some of those crumb warriors in your house.

      Now I have to confess to not knowing either of the two authors you mentioned. I’ll be sure to google them shortly. I can never have too many good authors added to my pile, it seems.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think, like Wodehouse, their humour is something you either get or you don’t so I won’t be offended if they are not to your taste. Oh, and don’t be put off by Pratchett being classed as ‘fantasy’. It’s not really. He is an astute observer of the human condition and he just happens to use wizards, trolls and dwarves to send it up. 🙂


      • I agree totally, Heather, and am a hearty believer in “vive la difference!” I’m glad you mentioned that about Pratchett as I do tend to steer away from “fantasy” and the dreaded romance novel…..


  21. kristieinbc says:

    Your experience with the ketchup container is exactly the kind of thing that would happen to me. Only my variation is I look for something I am positive I own, and after an exhaustive search I give up and replace it. Right after that I find the thing I have just replaced. My question is, why would they make a ketchup dispenser in an apple shape rather than a tomato?

    The book was a great find. Thanks for the link to the Kindle freebie in the comments above. I just ordered it!


    • Hi Kristie, the apple ketchup dispenser is a travesty, but somebody must have convinced the orchard it was good marketing somehow. My experience includes the missing sock ordeal. When I do the laundry, I place all single socks in a drawer and match them up in subsequent laundries, right? But there was this one gray sock that remained alone for a YEAR in the drawer and finally I gave up and tossed it. The next day we were moving our daughter from her residence and she held up a gray sock. “Is this yours?” AAAAAAHHHHH.


    • I hope you enjoy Wodehouse, Kristie. Please do let me know!


  22. Kate says:

    I ADORE Plum (who sits, resplendant on my shelves, between Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh – think of the laughter between those 3!) and haven’t sampled him in a while – thank you for reminding me and sending me back to him. And reminding me to put him on my kindle – perfect travel companion!! I’ve been re-reading all the Amelia Peabodys in desperate disbelief that there will be no more…


    • As if I needed another reason to think highly of you, Kate! Yes, wouldn’t it be the coolest thing ever to get in our imaginary time machine and zap ourselves back to one of their salons? Of course, I would have to resume smoking only for the duration of our trip and we would drink gin gimlets or champers and laugh and laugh!

      No, don’t think less of me if I confess I don’t know Amelia Peabody……and clearly I need to…dashed difficult situation I find myself in with all of these terrific book recommendations! P.S. I found the other week or so an old copy of “Men at War” by EW. I couldn’t really get into it and so have put it down until after the holidays. Stay tuned….


      • Kate says:

        Oh! Amelia is the BEST!! Written by Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels & Barbara Mertz, an Egyptologist) they are a series following an egyptological family set between the 1880’s and 1922 with murder, mystery and intrigue. And GREAT fun. I started in the middle, when the characters were perhaps a bit more interesting, then went back to the beginning. Written very tongue in cheek, and absolutely delightful. And there are 19 to gorge yourself on…

        And yes! Gimlets and champers and gin fizzes… I’d also love to go back and see MM Kaye’s British Empire, as portrayed in her murder mysteries (I don’t think I need to see the Mutiny first hand, thank you!) like the Andamans, Zanzibar, Kenya etc. Her autobiography is wonderful, too, as an observant eye on a world that has vanished. And I must confess, I do pick and choose with Mr Waugh – some of it I think you have to have been born “U” English to really appreciate.

        Go forth and Kindle!! XK


      • I’ve added one of the Amelia Peabody books, Kate, to one of my Pinterest boards where I keep track of what I intend to read. Are you or “Fig” on Pinterest? I’ll go have a look right now.


  23. bkpyett says:

    Lovely post! We too had the tomato shaped sauce container when I was a child. PJ Wodehouse is also a favourite. Enjoy it! 😍


  24. Dixie Minor says:

    What a lovely day! Pink Ladies, yum! And what a serendipitous find; I am so happy you found the ketchup dispenser. Sometimes I experience a longing for things like that, too. . . I have definitely heard Wodehouse’s praises sung; hope you enjoy! I don’t remember the tomato-shaped dispenser and feel like I must have missed out! 😉 Enjoy your treasure!


  25. cat9984 says:

    So what became of the poor forgotten apples?


  26. Pingback: A Reading Resolution | Silver in the Barn

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