Monday, June 15, 2009

A food rant

A few days ago I saw some lovely nectarines in the grocery store. They were a bit too firm but not rock hard. I thought they would be very nice if ripened at room temperature a couple of days. Yesterday decided to eat one for breakfast. One bite and -- ugh! Sour! And a little styrofoam-ish in texture. I rarely purchase nectarines or peaches simply because that seems to be their usual condition. But I had been lulled because for last summer happened to be a good one for peaches. Ripe, juicy, lusious. Each season I can find only one fruit that's properly ripe and good to eat. Sometimes it's plums. It is NEVER strawberries. I turned those nectarines into kucken.

A contradictory and horrible thing has happened to grocery produce -- and at some farmers' markets too. It seems the purveyors of fruit and vegetables think the public has no idea what ripe fruit tastes like. They insult us by thinking that we want large fruit [those giant flavorless strawberries] and perfectly shaped fruit [those apparently plastic red delicious apples]. I actually believe a generation exists now that does not know that the essence of ripe fruit is sweetness, and in many fruits that is accompanied by juiciness. I have seen many people gnawing on hard, unripe pears as if they think that is what a pear is supposed to be like.

On that same shopping trip I purchased a bag of cherries. They are beautiful, they range from bright [unripe] red to deep red. Some will be delicious, many will not be. I resent that the stores insist on packaging them in two pound baggies and that I cannot pick out my own cherries from a big pile. I love the good ones enough to purchase them anyway but I protest whenever I get a chance.

A good pineapple is a miracle of flavor and delight, and a great rarity. I think few Americans know that kiwis can actually be very sweet and delicious. We still have good watermelons -- hurray! -- but cantaloupes are horribly iffy and so are honeydews. Tomatoes are the strawberries of the vegetable world -- tasteless and artificially pretty. Upon rare occasions the tiny grape tomatoes have flavor, but one can't count on it. And then there's this ridiculous idea stores have of sprinkling veggies to make us think they are newly picked. Like the pretty brocolli I purchased, as wet as if it had just been brought in from the showery weather outside although it was probably picked at least three days ago.

Grocery stores are not really to blame. They get food from giant wholesalers who in turn get it from giant agribusiness. Meanwhile the medical writers and some conscientious MDs lecture that we Americans need to eat much more fruit and veggies and less fast food. Perhaps if the fruit and veggies tasted -- like food instead of something concocted in a laboratory -- people might enjoy them. As it is, we clearly want taste. There's a craving for flavor. Think pizza, salsa, Buffalo wings,and all those salt-saturated snack foods.

I'm old enough to remember when I could be convinced a tomato was a fruit because it was so sweet and tasty. I remember small, field picked strawberries that were so sweet and full of flavor I'd sneak into the refrigerator over and over for more. I'd be happy to live on fruit and veggies if it weren't an exercise in disappointment. As it is, some are truly eye candy no more satisfying than those disgusting gummy bears that have a minimum of flavor and a maximum of gluey-ness.

1 comment:

MaryContrary said...

We agree totally. Last year we decided to try frozen fruit because we had been disappointed by some of the canned and fresh was way too expensive. Tasteless and the texture was, as you put it, styrofoamy. The problem is that they pick everything green and it never develops a ripe flavor or texture.