Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fresh? You know it instinctively

Today, I'm gonna get fresh with you!

No, not like that.  I mean fresh as in fresh produce.

Years before Terry and I started Winter Goddess Foods, and became more health conscious with our eating choices, I remembered one year where the produce at our local supermarket was terrible.  The cherries tasted rubbery, the apples were spongy, and melons had no flavor at all.  The vegetables weren't any better. Asparagus tasted woody, the potatoes all seemed to have bad spots permeating the entire spud, and carrots lacked snap and sweetness.

In short, the entire produce section sucked!

Unfortunately we found out quickly that this phenomenon was not limited to the
"prism colored" store where we normally shopped. 
Things were just as bad at the "baby animal" market across the street.  Bins of polished, uniform produce lined their shelves as well, but the selections didn't taste any better, no matter how many spritz of water they doused them with to make them appear fresh.  I remember asking Terry about it, who being a farm kid, tended to have more of a pulse on produce than I did.

"Baby, what's wrong with the fruit and the vegetables lately?"
"What do you mean?"
"They never seem to have any flavor to them anymore.  It's like someone sucked the soul right out of them."
"You're right.  I noticed that too..."

That was when Terry decided to introduce me to (and reacquaint herself with) the Farmers Market.  She dug out her old market basket in preparation, and that Saturday morning, we woke up early and made our way to the venue.  As we entered the grounds and walked past each grower's stall, the first thing that struck me was the fact that you could actually smell the fruits and vegetables!  While they didn't have quite the uniformity of the produce in the supermarket, they more than made up for it in taste from the offerings that they growers sampled to us.  I remember the salad she fixed for us that night, made from the items of our haul. There was no amalgamation of flavors here.  Instead with eat bite, the vegetables seemed to shout out their names as present in this culinary role call;  "Jicama here!" "Spinach present!" "Cucumber, yo!"  My taste buds noted each vegetable in turn, as I relished every bite.  I honestly could not remember ever having a salad that tasted so good.

In today's world of corporate farms and Big AG, it is unfortunate that the emphasis
on growing crops has turned to increasing their yield and uniformity, with taste being sacrificed on the altar of profit and greed.  To misdirect us from what's really happening, we are bombarded by slick ad campaigns telling us what we really want.  Commercials fill the air waves with perfect nuclear families of fresh faced children and wide eyed fathers, all impressed by the savvy and wisdom of the supermodel wife and mother who chooses a bag or box of name brand flash frozen fruits or vegetables because she wants to serve the best most "natural" food to her family.  

After beating this drum year after year, convenience foods have replaced what we used to know as real, while frozen fruits and vegetables have become the new "fresh" food. Bland flavor, and the mouth-feel of wet pulp and moist cardboard have become the standard for the new taste of fresh produce.

Gee, thanks mom.

Our eyes and ears might become mesmerized by Big Ag's Madison Avenue hype train, but thankfully our taste buds have not.   Fortunately, all it takes is a bite of a just picked apple, or newly harvested stalk of celery to cause reality to come flooding back to our minds through our mouths.  After all, once you have experienced it, how can you forget the crunch? The sweetness?  The juicy goodness that bursts through your lips and dribbles down the side of your chin like the fingertip caress of a loved one?  Imagine the aroma of strawberries that actually smell like strawberries, or melons that smell like melons.  These perceptions invoke and almost visceral response of rightness within the core of
our being.

I believe we inherently know how to select what is good for us.  We just need to retrain ourselves to lean on our own good judgment, and to put less stock in what the advertisers say.  When you rely on your senses to pick out the best fruit for example, you quickly learn that if you can't smell it, the quality is lacking and you should pass it up.

As Terry and I stepped up our own food education, we learned that there were far better places out there to shop for our produce needs besides the sterile big name supermarkets.   
In addition to the local Farmers Markets, Co-ops and Country Market stores have great selections of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Farm stores in rural areas can fill the bill as well.  

Heck, even the offerings from a roadside stand put chain store produce to shame.  Farm direct, local and organic fruits and vegetables just plain taste better.  Don't believe me?  Try it for yourself by doing your own taste test with a pint of organic strawberries and a pint of their supermarket counterparts.  Or use bananas.  I assure you, you will notice a big difference!

With summer upon us, this is the perfect time to break free from food in a box or bag, and experience once again what produce is meant to taste like.  While it might take a little effort to seek out these points of sale, the flavor and taste of the real deal are well worth it.  Summer is the perfect time to redefine our definition of what constitutes fresh and natural.  We wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a try.

Here's a little word of advice: "If food has to be advertised on TV to get you to buy it, it probably isn't worth eating."

Check out the video here on how advertisers try to manipulate our definition of the word "fresh."



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