Photo:

Annemieke Hendriks

and her ‘Biography of the Tomato’

As a Dutch journalist and author with a sociological background, Annemieke Hendriks is mostly operating from Berlin, especially along Europe’s former East/West borders.

Annemieke Hendriks studied sociology and language sciences at Groningen University. In the eighties Annemieke learnt to know Europe’s East/West borders, working some years for a German-Swiss-Dutch research project on civil rights at Freie Universität related Berghof Stiftung für Konfliktforschung (West-Berlin).

In those days Annemieke’s West-Berlin intellectual and arty circles were not interested at all in the Wall which divided the city and in the people at the Eastern side. And so she herself wasn’t. Ashamed of this, she started, as soon as the Iron Curtain was torn down, reporting and publishing intensively from Central and Eastern Europe, about East/West relationships and on European integration themes. And she never got enough it.

She lectured Sociology and Cultural Studies at the Journalistic Academy Windesheim Zwolle during eight years, in the mean time running the small theatre, cinema and photo exhibition house from Groningen University. Moving to Amsterdam, she stepped over to journalism herself, working besides as the text editor of Netherlands Film Archive.

From 1990 onwards she writes features for Dutch and other European quality papers and magazines; during the last fifteen years fulltime – from Berlin again.

Annemieke has published seven non-fiction books since (literary and documentary ones), and some more as co-author. Half of them are on European themes and the other half on cultural-historical and social themes.

Her elaborated interview book on pioneers of Dutch cinema, De pioniers, was awarded 2007 as the best film publication of the year in Dutch language. And her script for a long documentary movie, Meerzicht, received 1993 the prize for the best script at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The film has been realized and broadcasted.

Europe or film culture: It’s always people that are in the center of Annemieke’s stories. They are portrayed in their own environment, the readers can grow into their lives, enabled by the author to learn and understand their motives, thoughts and actions.

Some call this ‘slow journalism’, which is a wonderful description of the finest job on earth. At least, if you are interested in people all over the continent and beyond, and if you have definitely stopped caring about the scarce earnings such time-consuming journalistic work brings.

‘BIOGRAPHY OF THE TOMATO’

Annemieke Hendriks wishes to share with TEDxVienna audience her exciting research experiences from the last three years with fresh food trade. It’s a world full of paradoxes and myths, curiosities and anomalies.

The tomato is a vivid metaphor for such food streams. Annemieke is using the tomato (and to some extent paprika, apple and even pig meat) to highlight the strengths and weaknesses, and winners and losers, of Europe’s food chains. And she has come up with some surprising, and also alarming, facts. Focusing on the various decision makers in the life of the tomato the story predominantly takes place in the Netherlands, Spain, Romania, Germany, Hungary and Austria. And to some extent it plays in the United States, the United Kingdom, the African continent, Poland, Turkey, Italy and Greece as well.

How come? Annemieke was researching 2006-2009 in – among other countries - Hungary and Romania for her last book Iron Doors (to this book on East/West mixed families, please see below). In paprika country Hungary she saw more Dutch paprika in the supermarket than Hungarian ones, and at Romania’s local markets she noticed that the traditional tomato was more expensive than the imported ones. Why was this happening? There the idea for the new book, a ‘Biography of the Tomato’, arose.

Now she initiated and researched some editions of a Dutch public television awarded quality program, De Slag om Brussel’ (‘The Battle of Brussels’, for VPRO television by Appelbaum Productions). One of these documentaries was about Dutch paprika ‘invading’ Hungary and about Hungary’s own troubled paprika production (connected with a troubled social care system). You can see this television documentary from 2011, titled De Goulashsubsidie, here: HYPERLINK "http://programma.vpro.nl/slagombrussel/afleveringen/seizoen3/afl7.html" http://programma.vpro.nl/slagombrussel/afleveringen/seizoen3/afl7.html

From this research Annemieke got some answers, but even more questions arose. That’s why she started a bigger research project about business with fresh vegetables in Europe. Reporting on the adventurous journey of the tomato – from cultivation to consumption or, formulating it in more ‘human’ terms, from its birth to its death – is the topic of this coming investigative non-fiction book:

A Biography of the Tomato. From Seed to Superstar on the European Market.

NB: This is the – informally translated – working title of the Dutch edition of the book, which will be released in the autumn of 2014 (by Nieuw Amsterdam Publishers). Spin-off in European media, in English and German language is prepared by the author. But she really hopes to make a complete English and/or German edition of the book as well.

Annemieke’s tomato project is granted by investigative journalistic funds in Amsterdam and Brussels, as well as with a Milena Jesenská Fellowship for experienced journalists 2013 at the IWM in Vienna (an independent Institute for advanced study, which promotes intellectual exchange between East and West, between academia and society, and between various schools of thought).