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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 11.27.09
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

An inconvenient fruit

Every now and then you'll come across food packaging that announces "Improved!" My response to this is, "Says who?"

Saying something is improved is subjective, entirely a matter of opinion. Just because some food-additive geek in a lab has augmented the "mouth-feel" qualities of Crunk-O-Berry Cereal doesn't mean I'm actually going to like it. My mac-and-cheese package may claim to have "Improved Cheeeeziness!" but maybe I prefer the old pseudo-cheeeeeziness of yore.

When they say "Improved!" what they really mean is "Changed!"

That said, I know of one food group that could definitely use improving: fruit.

It's been quite some time since there have been any genuine innovations in fruit or the fruit-related sciences, certainly nothing as dramatic as the introduction of the seedless watermelon back in 1988. That was truly a watershed watermelon year. Yet even this was a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, melons became considerably simpler to eat. On the other hand, the lives of our children are a little bit emptier without the opportunity to bite into a melon on a hot summer day and spit seeds at their siblings.

But what's wrong with fruit? you ask. Where do I begin?

Lets start with apples, a seemingly benign fruit. They're convenient to carry, they're relatively firm, they can be used as projectile weapons if necessary. But you never know until it's too late whether your apple is going to be mealy or soft on the inside.

And then there's that inevitable piece of skin that gets jammed between your teeth, right into the gums, just dangling there and nagging you for the rest of the day.

Grapes are the worst. Nasty little globules that you bite down on until they pop, like nature's blisters. Blueberries are almost as bad. Have you looked at the inside of a blueberry? It's like something you'd find splattered on your windshield.

Even the seemingly reliable banana can't be trusted. One day it looks smooth, yellow and inviting, the next it looks like Leonard Nimoy. Plus bananas have that weird string thing that ends up flopping down your chin. And what is it about the very last bite of banana that makes you gag?

Strawberries? Too messy. Honeydew? Too insipid. Pears? Too pear-y. Exotic fruits? Another way of saying "weird fruits."

Possibly, you're saying, but isn't this all subjective too? True enough. Everyone has his or her own tastes. If you enjoy the way a peach is simultaneously stringy and gooey, then good on you.

Nevertheless, I think you'll grant me this: there are serious problems with the orange.

An orange isn't a fruit. It's a commitment.

I actually like oranges. Unlike some fruit, they don't pretend to be something they're not. The level of juiciness may vary but you pretty much know what you're getting into with an orange. It's the Will Ferrell movie of fruit.

But you have to stop everything to have an orange.

If I take an orange to work, I have to find a 15-minute window of opportunity to a) peel my orange; b) peel that horrid white pith off; c) find some paper towel because I've got orange oil all over me; d) break the orange into wedges; e) tear off some more paper towel; f) eat the orange; and g) go wash my hands because the paper towel just isn't cutting it.

It's important to note that most oranges come from Florida. What else is in Florida? Retired people with a lot of spare time to deal with oranges and orange-related issues. The rest of us just don't have that luxury. In an age of multi-tasking, oranges are a highly inefficient fruit. We need a vitamin-C-bearing fruit that we can eat at work while we're secretly checking our Facebook updates.

Where is the EZ-Peel Peel? The Zipporange? The Quik-Citrus? Instead of messing with determining the quadrilateral divergence of maple syrup/waffle absorbency, why aren't our food scientists doing something meaningful with oranges? And I mean that in a completely platonic sense.

Come on, science. It's time to put your best fruit forward.

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