Friday, March 30, 2007

Cuppa Crap

Nice fruit cup, right?
Cute presentation, decent mix of varieties, good ripeness and freshness.
So why was it such a dud?
Because I could taste the factory farmed flavors.
A couple of years ago, when I first went to this cute, friendly restaurant, I always ordered the fruit cup and a bowl of oatmeal. Seemed like a healthy choice. The oatmeal was especially delicious (and I could never get the proprietors to tell me what brand they use — clever of them, so that I'd always want to get my oatmeal at their place instead of buying some of my own).
Yesterday I returned after a great, great absence. The oatmeal tasted, meh, fine. Good texture, nothing offensive, but — meh.
The fruit cup was a disaster.
I'll tell you exactly where this story is going: I don't think their ingredients have gone downhill, but they don't taste as good to me anymore.
I haven't eaten at this restaurant since I sent my taste buds to boot camp, back in August of 2005. That was the month of the first Eat Local Challenge, when I learned to do most of my shopping for produce at farmers markets. I ate fresh, I ate well, I ate brilliantly. And my mouth thanked me for it.
Then yesterday: a single bite of the green melon and it tasted like you could ignite the vapors in my mouth when I exhaled.
The restaurant owners mean well, I'm sure, and they do their best with a small place in a pricey county. They probably never intended to serve Jet Fuel Crenshaws, because they don't know they are. They can't taste the inferiority.
I'm not the one to try to persuade them to change their supplier. They probably couldn't afford to.
But it's sad, because I won't be going back.


Monkey Wrangler said...

I totally agree! Eating fresh "local" stuff can't be beat for flavor, but it does completely change your taste and expectations. If folks dismiss this, just remind them of a real tomato. If you've ever had one from your yard (I KNOW you have CC), picked right before eating it, there is NO comparison with a store bought, bland red water bag. A real tomato has NEVER been refrigerated. If you're eating it during the peak of summer, with any luck it has never seen temps below the 60's. When this happens, not only does the freshness smack you in the face, but all those lovely volatiles that waft from the fruit have not been put out into the air for days on end during their transport and lounging around. Less flavor has "leaked" out. The fresh, live creature that fruit is, is. And from what I've gathered info-wise, pretty much all produce is this way.

Here's what I chalk it up to: if they're not bitchin', they don't know what they're missin'.

Nice honest post CC. Thanks.

Anna Haight said...

Now I understand why my grandpa wouldn't eat anything out of a chain grocery store -- he said it was all cardboard. Then, he had a greenhouse attached to his home, bigger than the home itself. I am very wary of fruit cups as I've had your experience more often than not, and it's usually pretty pricey too.

Lotus said...

You're so right! I didn't notice much of a difference when I started eating fresh, local veggies and organic non-homogenized milk. Then, I would go out of town and eat cereal from the hotel breakfast bar and the milk just tasted watery annd slightly bitter.

When I got back home, my milk tasted so sweet and rich...

Beccy said...

CC I would love to live somewhere with the farmers market you have. I read yours and Sam's post and drool. Unfortunately fresh, local food is so expensive (organic meat can be four times the price) and as a family of five on a limited budget it just isn't an option. I do worry about the affect it may have on my children but I can only do my best.

Ed Bruske said...

A lesson in eating foods out of season maybe?

cookiecrumb said...

Monkey Wrangler: I was amazed at the transformation in my mouth. I want to protect this new sensibility.
Also, speaking of the "volatiles" of a ripe tomato, have you noticed the gaseous whiff of industrial tomatoes? Just like that melon.

Anna: If only we could grow our own.

Lotus: OMG, you nailed it. I'm just getting into milk discerning. My yogurt is so special now.

Beccy: But no shame, eh? You do your best. Some of us get lucky (now and then, for those on a budget), and some of us are good moms. :D

Ed: I stand accused. Melon from south of the equator, no doubt. Stupid me. Geography ought not to explain that flavor, though. But growing practices might.

ChrisB said...

I can't eat local for much of the time but I do eat a lot of organic; however it comes from so far away that it can't really be that fresh and I do wonder sometimes if I'm wasting my money. However we grow local strawberries and there's nothing I like better so roll on June.

cookiecrumb said...

ChrisB: I picked commercial strawberries -- fully ripe, in season, though probably treated with chemicals -- as a teenager. So I empathise. Looking forward to the frais des bois.

Barbara said...

I've noticed the shop bought fruit get increasingly tasteless over the years in NZ, especially our stone fruit. This morning I read NZ are now importing more fruit than we are exporting. It is coming in from China and being processed into cans and is cheaper than the cost the NZ producer pays for the can.

Sam said...

the other night, I was tired and i didn't really want to cook, fred tried to persuade me to go and have sushi at the local. I usually like it there, but I just couldn't resist the allure of a bunch of the slenderest local leeks which would have gone to waste had we dined out that night. He groaned at the sound of baked potato (again), but the local food won over for me. It wasn't about saving money, it was because I couldn't bear the thought of throwing away something I knew would taste so good.

But after the potatoes were baked til crunchy, served with the leeks and a nice shallot vinaigrette made with french mustard to appease him, and local oil, some springhill jersey butter and some fatted calf bacon plus my homemade spicy tomato chutney from last fall, he was grinning from ear to ear. It was such a delicious meal.

Somtimes when we sit down to dinner he says. "When I think of all those people I work with going home to eat crap food, I realise how lucky I am, I think I am the best fed person at ILM"

jen's mom said...


Stacie said...

yep. that's why we only eat the melon for a two to three month window in these parts. that goes for strawberries, tomatoes, heck just about everything that grows! cummon spring!

Dagny said...

I spent my summers when I was growing up on my grandfather's farm. We ate whatever my grandmother had grown in her small garden or had bought from one of the other farms up the road.

But now there are days when I am lazy -- as in too lazy to pack a lunch. On those days I get a school lunch with the kids. Like this past week when I had corndogs. Mmmmm. I usually skip the fruit cup though on the rare occasion they have it. Usually the fruit is an orange or an apple.

And thank you for reminding me that I need to go grocery shopping.

Lannae said...

You mean that fruit salad at diners and restaurants shouldn't have the ignitable vapors coming off of them? I don't believe that there is a restaurant in Nashville that doesn't have that problem.

elarael said...

For those of us who continue to populate the planet beyond its and our own means to support it healthily, there isn't any better karma than growin' yer own! It's economical, teaches responsability as well as many other valuable lessons, as well as an education in delicious, organic seasonal produce at a price even a family of biblical proportions can afford. Money is never a valid excuse to compromise health and well-being.

cookiecrumb said...

Barbara: Maybe all your arable land is being given over to vineyards?

Sam: I love your story. For all the nonstop glamorousness we readers perceive your life to be, it's charming to know that you eat like we do. (Y'know. Well. Sorta.)
Anyway, I'm with you on that: You go out to eat, and you can be so sorrowfully disappointed. Great, easy, home-cooked food is a blessing.

Jen's Mom: That was a trap I set for you, baited with the word "meh," and you bit! So good to see you here. xx

Stacie: Sounds like you're a prime candidate for preserving food.

Dagny: Wouldn't it be wonderful to just roam outdoors and "pick" lunch?

Lannae: See, and I was kind of wondering whether I wanted to move to Nashville... Oh. OK.

Elarael: You might get some arguments on the money aspect from some eaters, but I agree with you. Especially because food you grow yourself will reduce your overall food budget.