Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fruits and Nuts.

This blog got started because of my ability to make a vaguely or potentially awkward situation certifiably... you guessed it, uncomfortable. Let's begin with my latest "success story."

We were meeting another couple for dinner, a couple whom we had only met once. I always get nervous in these kinds of situations. Statistically speaking, UM likelihood is directly proportional to the number of people in any given social setting, and inversely proportional to how well you know the people involved.

As we made a third loop around the restaurant, looking for parking, we spotted the male half of our dinner friends. I slowed down to a stop, and we let him know we were looking for a spot. What I didn't realize was that a handshake was in progress at my passenger window. I began to pull the car away, only braking when I realized our friend was doing a weird jog to prevent his arm from being pulled out of its socket. What kind of a jack-arse pulls the car away when two people are shaking hands? Me, that's who.

Anyway, it all turned out fine. At dinner we heard a story about our friend's relatives in Pennsylvania and their reaction to the fact that one of their flock lives in California now. "Fruits and nuts, that's all they've got out there," the relatives said. Apparently this was the refrain whenever California came up: "Fruits and nuts." Our friends rolled their eyes. We laughed.

Let's leave aside the ugly aspect of this comment, an attitude that explains why this country has managed to elect a chimp two terms in a row, and why that supposed freedom-spreader talks about taking a prejudice-filled dump on the Constitution. The comment here was, for a split second, interpreted by my brain as a literal reference to food. Thus, my attention is diverted.

It seems impossible to be awake lately without hearing something about organic food and eating locally. It used to be virtuous to spend $12 on five heirloom tomatoes, because they are organic and good for you. But if those tomatoes had to be shipped across several states, you are now a thoughtless twit who is personally responsible for climate change. Clearly, while buying your groceries, you have failed to adequately contemplate the food chain and our entire globe. You have to get your produce locally, friends, organic or not. Who do you think you are, anyway, with your Earthbound Farms, Big Organic bullshit? Do you even know a farmer? With people like you, it's only a matter of time before the label "organic" means "grown with radon and sprayed with landfill essence, imported from India."

Fortunately, here in the Golden State we have many options when it comes to buying locally grown organic produce, as opposed to when I lived in D.C. and would have had to depend on one weekly farmer's market and whatever was growing in my apartment.

For me, the main disincentive to buy organic is not so much that it costs more, or that it might not look as pretty. It's that those fruits and vegetables have to last until we eat the tortilla chips, cheese, bread, candy and whatever other inorganic items we have in the apartment. Usually by then, it's too late. I have to throw the produce away, newly aware that I am wasting not only the food itself, but the resources used to grow and ship it.

This conflict came to a head recently in the form of a hotly debated issue at home: The "Mostly Fruit Box." (See no. 10 below.) It's a nice idea: We support a local farm, and a box full of organic surprise goodies arrives at our doorstep every month.

The reality has been less enchanting. First of all, there have been a lot of beets. Second of all, I have seen items rot literally within hours of receipt, because they couldn't be refrigerated right away. Third, it's a fruit-fly party. And fourth:

Republican: we just don't eat most of the stuff, that's my main objection
Democrat: we will this time
Democrat: we don't throw most of it away
Democrat: we eat at least half, often more
Republican: I do, out of guilt
Republican: anyway you like it, it's your thing
Republican: I'm not going to eat out of guilt anymore
Democrat: it's got bananas and peaches and plums
Republican: it can all rot
Democrat: ok, don't eat it out of guilt
Democrat: jesus

I know who comes off badly in this IM exchange. Call me a killjoy and a hater of small local farmers across America. It's just that I can't stand the idea of rotting food, especially rotting pricy food. For other people, it's, "Hey, we got some neat stuff in this box! That's great!" What gets eaten gets eaten, and the rest, ah well. Done and done. It's a fun treat, like a monthly gift.

But for me, it becomes a daily race against produce time, as once-edible items turn into desiccated, moldy proof that I am a wasteful person who was not worthy of them. I compulsively slice and stew and wrap as fast as my little ungrateful hands will allow, mainly to avoid the alternative of throwing it all away. You might reasonably respond, then why don't you just let it go? Why not just live and let Fruit Box? I'm resolving to try, but a phrase keeps coming to mind: "Fruits and nuts... fruits and nuts..."


  1. Anonymous11:52 AM

    one word: borscht

  2. Anonymous1:53 PM

    You're doing it all wrong! You have to buy the non-organic, prepackaged produce in the neatly sealed plastic bags. That way, when it rots, it's already vacuum sealed in it's own Level 4 bio containment unit. You don't even have to touch it! Just toss, get in your car, drive to the mega-mart and get some more. Easy Cheesy!


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