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|Unhappy with purchased fruit
from today's Chicago Tribune:
Not just sour grapes: Fruit fails taste test
Dawn Turner Trice
Published December 30, 2003
The beef industry is ailing following reports that meat from a single Holstein in Washington state was infected with mad cow disease. While I sympathize, I am not a lover of beef.
I am, however, a lover of fruit. And, man, would I like to call somebody on the carpet regarding the sorry state of fruit affairs in this country.
We can import all manner of exotic fruit from all over the world. Enjoy various fruit no matter the season. But for the past few years--and I can't put a finger on exactly when this began--the quality of fruit has been pretty darn pathetic.
This despite the fact that fruit now looks far more appetizing and far more, well, beefy than ever before. How can an Anjou pear be as big and firm as my head and still be devoid of flavor? The taste is reminiscent of nothingness. Some fruit has evolved into a sort of "Seinfeld" sustenance.
Or sometimes, you don't know what your fruit is going to taste like. Last summer, every watermelon I bought was red and juicy but tasted like sour green apples.
Bite into a gorgeous, albeit lacquered-up, Gala, Braeburn or Macintosh apple and 7 times out of 10 (my own personal poll), they're mealy or even rotten inside. Or they--dare I say it again--lack flavor.
You've heard of mystery meat? This is the age of mystery fruit.
And, by the way, there's no guarantee that some green bananas will ever ripen, no matter how long they're left in a brown paper bag. In fact, some have tended to bypass yellow altogether and go directly to brown, limp and stinky.
Recently, I had a wire basket filled with truly photogenic lemons that sat out on the kitchen counter for about a week. Then one day, all of a sudden, it was as though the whole basket gave up and started to metamorphose into dry and misshapen lemon drops.
You can carefully thump and plunk fruit, shake and sniff, and the odds of getting something really satisfying are pretty slim. (I should add that I've shopped for fruit far beyond my neighborhood grocery.)
Why is good fruit so hard to come by? The answers can be as varied as fruit itself. Some experts say most of our fruit varieties are bred for shelf life rather than taste.
Carol Braunschweig, an associate professor of human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, offered other reasons.
Fruit grown in a hothouse often doesn't have the same robust flavor as fruit grown outdoors in a field. And then there's fruit irradiation--the process that reduces spoilage microbes and helps fruit retain its good looks. "You can double the shelf life of various fruit, but sometimes the tissue is softened and that, for example, is what may make an apple mushy."
All I know is that last summer, my husband and I decided that perhaps it was grocery store fruit that was the culprit. So we decided to start buying fruit from outdoor farmers' markets.
We had better luck, but the fruit still wasn't all that impressive. Nectarines and peaches were nearly indistinguishable in terms of taste, their juices as weak as water. The same was true for a good number of raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.
My passion for fruit stems from my 3rd-grade teacher--a hippie, yoga lover and all-around rare bird--who allowed her students to nibble fruit in class. That was back when pork rinds were a staple for some kids.
I met my best friend Debra because I marveled at how she munched on pomegranates while the rest of us consumed mundane apples and oranges.
Just the other day, I sliced open a pomegranate and half the pulplike seeds were juicy and edible, but the other half seemed ready for planting.
These days try persuading your little ones that it's better to snack on a handful of lackluster grapes or cantaloupe chunks rather than high-calorie, high-salt potato chips that are especially flavorful. Try persuading them that a Fruit Roll-Up doesn't measure up as a real serving of fruit.
Every now and then I bite into a piece of fruit that's fairly enjoyable. But that's become more the exception than the rule.
OK, so maybe it's my taste buds. But, I tell you, fruit has gone to seed in this country, and I'd give almost anything to bite into a Red Delicious and have it be exactly that.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Dawn Turner Trice's column appears Mondays.
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