When I was young, our Christmas stockings would inevitably be weighed down by a handful of oranges and, too heavy for our faux-mantle, laid carefully beneath the tree. Though nearly irrelevant in the contemporary First World, this tradition heralds from a time and place when oranges were both rare and expensive.
Somehow, beyond my comprehension of shipping logistics, this is no longer the case. Oranges can be found in grocery stores around the world alongside even rarer, more tropical fruit for prices even a pauper could finagle nearly year-round.
So let me just climb up on my soapbox and ask: Is this a convenience of modern society or a needless frivolity that takes for granted the future of our planet? It seems impossible (in my primitive logistic mind) that these prices account for the carbon footprint left behind, nevermind the questionable ethics involved at every stage of production. I’m not a zealot, but perhaps we should just pause and think for a nanosecond as we stumble through our luxurious, ignorant lives. (Too harsh? Chalk it up to shock value…)
Anyway, as I’m living in one of the world’s most diverse biospheres (Sicily), I thought I might share some realities from my current perspective. Experiencing these truths makes me feel rich and lucky. And it makes me promise myself I will strive to live differently upon my departure.
1. There are no “heirloom” tomatoes and peppers. There are only tomatoes and peppers.
2. When you ask the grocer where a given fruit or vegetable comes from, they point.
3. If you ask for cauliflower in any month except October (or cherries in any month except June etc.), the grocer looks at you like you asked for moon rocks.
4. You have to wash your vegetables before you eat them. To get the soil off; not the pesticides.
5. You need to use less than one-quarter of the herbs or garlic when they’re fresh and not mass-produced, genetically modified, clone-selected, greenhouse-grown, shipped-worldwide Frankenstein plants. Yes, even the dried stuff.
6. Things go bad. They shrivel and rot. I know that seems like a negative, but that’s what food is supposed to do. I personally find it alarming when a tomato I bought three weeks ago has retained perfect structural integrity.
7. Leafy greens actually have flavour. As it turns out, they’re not all just different shapes of “lettuce”. For example, arugula (i.e. rocket/rucola) is distinctly peppery. I mean seriously spicy and sharp. Just like that chef once told you, but you never understood what they meant (maybe that was just me).
8. Lastly, oranges (between different varieties, seasonal nearly all year) can easily be found for less than €1/kg (about $0.62USD/lb). That’s about 8¢ each for Valencia. Do you know why? BECAUSE THEY GROW HERE.
What I’m saying is this: Wouldn’t the world be a different, and strangely beautiful place if we only ate bananas when we’re in Costa Rica? Man, I love bananas. I guess I’ll put them on my list of things to quit. Alternatively, I could live there but I’m not sure there’s much of a “wine scene”.
So get up and go to the farmer’s market and eat (or drink) something your neighbor grew (and vinified). It’s not code, people! Drink local wine too! And you can wait until Festivus and all give each other bananas. They’re shaped like a stocking anyway. If that becomes a tradition, I’m taking credit. [end rant]