January 20, 2005 (Ira Pilgrim)
There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
- George Bernard Shaw
I was born and raised in New York City. After a 3 year stint in the army, I went to California where I enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley and got a job as a laboratory technician at Highland Hospital in Oakland.
One day, I was strolling on the grounds of the hospital when I saw a tree with some ripe peaches on it. I picked one and ate it. It was the most delicious peach that I have ever tasted. The fact that I still remember it after almost 60 years testifies to its flavor. All of the fruit that I had had before that came out of a store, having been picked some time before, often when not quite ripe. Another experience that I had was with an apricot tree in my back yard. Most of the ripe cots went into the basket, but the slightly over ripe ones went into my mouth. Again I experienced the best flavor that a fruit can offer.
When my wife or I get to a farmer's market, we take advantage of the freshness of the produce. However, I like fruit all year long, so I have to settle for supermarket produce. Any fruit is better than no fruit. The fact is that farmer's markets cannot even come close to meeting the demand for produce.
One of the anomalies of our time is that canned tomatoes often have more flavor than the fresh ones in the supermarket. The canning process has gotten much better, while the breeding of tomatoes for color and size has almost demolished the flavor. I find that, in order to get tasty tomatoes, I have to grow my own in the greenhouse. This winter I am still enjoying one or two fresh cherry tomatoes a day.
Over the past several years I have watched fruit trees being replaced by vineyards. Is it because grapes are better tasting than pears or peaches or apples? No, it is because grapes, when fermented, are more profitable than fresh fruit.
This morning, as I was eating an exceptionally tasty orange, it occurred to me that, with the possible exception of love, sex and chocolate, fresh fruit is as delicious as life can get.
I can be pretty sure that man and his ancestors found ripe fruit to be pleasurable to the taste. It was probably accidental that they found out that when fruit rots it produces a liquid that makes you feel strange and that it could momentarily dispel misery. Over millennia wine became a religion. The ceremonies and the mystique associated with wine are often as elaborate as the most elaborate of religious ceremonies.
As far as I am concerned, the taste of the best of wines can't hold a candle to the taste of a fresh grape. Fresh grapes can't make you drunk and the flavor of the grape only lasts for a moment. One indication of the superiority of the fresh fruit over the fermented juice is that you don't have to advertise or mystify fresh fruit to make it desirable. Sure, I like the effect of wine, but for flavor, wine doesn't hold a candle to fresh fruit or its juice.
One of the great accomplishments of mankind is the cultivation of a vast variety of fruits many of which are more flavorful than the fruit that they originally came from. The large variety of large and flavorful apples and other fruit show that man can truly enhance nature.
As far as I'm concerned the taste of fresh fruit is as good as it gets. As for fermented fruit juice, some taste better than others, and the price can range from cheap to ridiculously expensive. You can put it in fancy bottles with a fancy price tag; but booze is still booze.
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