Yesterday, I walked past the produce aisles at my local H.E.B. and read some signs.
Above the bananas:
“Yellow bananas are ready to eat today and tomorrow. Green bananas are ripe and ready to eat in 3-5 days.”
Above the lemons:
“Room temperature lemons yield more juice.”
Above the pears:
“Press gently around the stem with your thumb. Pears are best eaten when this area is soft and the rest of the pear is firm.”
This age old wisdom we should have learned from our mothers and grandmothers made for an informative (and slightly amusing) set of signs. I could not believe that we are so divorced from our food that we need grocery store tutors to tell us how to select our produce, when to eat it, and how to store it.
But we do.
I didn’t learn these things from my mother. Aside from an apple or banana tucked into our sack lunch every day, she never fed us fresh produce. She bought the canned stuff. And, we certainly didn’t garden, despite our large expanses of sunlit lawn. (Okay, one year she did plant a veggie garden out back. But, I don’t think she had much experience so her initial disappointment made her think gardening wasn’t really worth all the hard work.)
I learned the secrets of discerning ripeness from books and gardening magazines.
These teachers strike me as tragic. Signs and magazines? Shouldn’t we just be able to intuit when fruit and vegetables are ripe? Isn’t that when they are supposed to be their most appealing, in order for us to pluck them and spread their seeds around and ensure the ongoing viability of their species?
But, we can’t. And here’s why. We rarely, if ever, eat food anymore. We buy edible foodlike substances that have been manufactured for us by the food industry, and in order for us to eat these things their true taste, smell, and texture have been disguised behind chemical flavorings and deodorization processes. In short, we’ve trained ourselves in all the wrong ways to recognize non-food as food.