Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Revelation

Remember, as a child, making yourself sick on fresh-picked fruit? With a dire (but unheeded) mothers' warning ringing in your head as some unknown motive force takes control of your hands and desperately grabs just one more raspberry from the vine, just one more strawberry or apple?
Our little human bodies, genetically compelled to partake of, but physiologically incapable of processing, such a bounty, are thrown headfirst into the fray of will power and restraint when confronted with such a wonder as an orchard or a vineyard. The animal says consume until there is nothing left; the mind reels at the notion of something so delicious just hanging around outside bearing a parent's blessing instead of the usual "Please, please, please! Why not? You never let me have anything! It's not fair!" that comes heavy with the prospect of other treats; the mouth only remembers the last mouthful and how nice that was; everything but that one little warning is gleefully screaming "one more, why not!?"
And then, a little bit later, you get sick.
One look from your mother at your juice-stained mouth and hands and she knows you chose to learn your lesson the hard way.

As it turns out, I still occasionally learn this lesson the hard way (thanks mostly to my parents' garden); and if none of this sounds familiar to you then you have probably been raised on store-bought produce and you deserve to treat yourself to an afternoon at a U-pick berry farm. Because when kids learn that first lesson (and second, and so on) they are not just learning that fruits and vegetables in excess can make you sick, they are learning that fresh fruits and vegetables can be so incredibly good that they are worth making yourself sick on. Store-bought produce varieties are bred to be durable, to ship well, to freeze well, to be pest-free and if, after all that, they end up being palatable, then huzzah for a happy coincidence; they are just not good enough to inspire a lifelong devotion to healthy-eating.
If you think for a moment, you may recall a particularly delicious piece of store-bought fruit you have had lately... go ahead, maybe it was that one unmealy apple or an orange that didn't have that weird thing with the creepy dry juice-sacs...
These are only memorable because they shine above the mediocrity of the average produce experience! It should not be momentous occasion to enjoy fruit, it should be the norm!
As a bonus now, try to recall a particularly delicious store-bought vegetable you have had recently... go ahead, I'll wait...
No? Nothing? I feared as much. And if you can, it's likely because you made a delicious dish out of those vegetables, not because of any intrinsic tastiness of the vegetables themselves.
For people who have never pulled a carrot out of the ground, brushed it on their sleeve and eaten it on the spot, eating vegetables will seem like a chore because there is no visceral connection to the flavors, textures and life of the food they are eating. Carrots become bland, packaged, merchandised products they buy out of a dimly-understood patriotic duty to their bodies. For years now, I have tossed a bag of peeled baby carrots into my shopping cart as a relatively inoffensive concession to my own health (I dunno, they're orange and make you see better, right?). This summer though, my cup (or fridge, as it were) overfloweth with carrots from the aforementioned parents' garden and from my own potted garden (yes, you can grow carrots in a pot!) and I have found myself actually eating them as a snack rather than as an obligatory addendum to a sack-lunch.
Carrots taste good! I think I knew that once, as a kid, but after I lost access to farm and garden, I slowly morphed into the baby-carrot-buying zombie here before you today. It is a revelation, replete with unknown and forgotten flavors, with subtlety and vitality. It is the satisfaction of an urge forged in malnourished ancestors, of a need to be alive and well.
I encourage everyone who has not already: plant some seeds, visit a local farm, farmers market or neighbor's garden; have your own revelation... but don't make yourself sick!
(OK, go ahead and make yourself a little sick.)


  1. i miss the orchard/garden/berries, and the corn across the street, even the non store bought ants by the rope swing (yum)

  2. I don't have the room or the sun for an edible garden, but don't think I've bought fruit from the grocery store once this summer. I'm lucky enough to have 5 different farmers markets close by.

    Never got sick on fruit, but am having to take a 3 day holiday from tomato eating, as all the acidity is starting to make my mouth hurt.

    Too much information?