Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Thing About Food

Everything I used to know about produce has changed.

...Strawberries are better when they're small. Wild blueberries have more flavor than cultivated ones. Corn has to be fresh and in season to be sweet. Only the first harvest of figs is good; the September harvest is not sweet. Bananas are flavorless yellow things. Watermelon tastes like water.

None of those things are true anymore. It seems that the agriculture industry found out that taste matters to consumers... et voila! They created more tasty fruits and vegetables.

This is so recent it seems like a miracle. When I returned from living in Africa ten years ago, the difference in taste between the food I ate in the tropics and the food I could buy in Canadian grocery stores was like the difference between caramel and glue. That's all changed. I guess it's the miracle of capitalism.


tom s. said...

Very odd to read this. I was just thinking the opposite on the weekend. I've slowly been abandoning tomatoes but thought "at least field tomatoes are still tasty". Not this year: they are just as tough and dry as other tomatoes.

And strawberries? I was very frustrated by the presence of so many large, white-centered, core-filled strawberries in the supermarkets this year - local small (and, yes, more tasty) produce seemed to have a hard time finding a spot even in June.

There's so much food around, people can have very different experiences, but is it getting better or worse? Not sure. I'm no fan of "eat locally"; the availability of mediterranean foods in the UK made a huge difference. But I'm not sure quality has improved along with variety.

Yappa said...

Hi Tom -

I was at a dinner party tonight and I posed my point and your point. I gotta tell you, you won hands down. I was practically shouted down with protestations that produce flavor gets worse and worse. Go figure!

I choose strawberries by smell, and I haven't had a bad batch, winter or summer, in a year or more. In the summer I buy tomatoes at the market and I never, ever refrigerate them (that drives out their taste)---also I stay away from beefsteak. But I dunno, I guess I'm on my own on this one.