Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Apples and Oranges

Bernd Heinrich, The Trees in My Forest (1997), Mushrooms:
Apparently we fear some fungi even more than the toxins that we use to kill them. Fungal apple scab, for example, is one feared species, though it really does only minor damage. Scab costs Vermont apple growers alone one million dollars annually in chemical applications and "product loss." (Scabbed apples are "unsellable.") Yet, a little apple scab is harmless and tasteless. Given the choice, I'd purposely pick out apples with some black fungus scabs, because they could not more honestly be labeled "fungicide free," in the same way that a tiny tasteless moth caterpillar in the apple core says "insecticide free."
Aldous Huxley, Beyond the Mexique Bay (1934), Trinidad:
The oranges that grow in these tropical islands are particularly juicy and aromatic; but they never appear on any European or North American market. As with so many of us, their faces are their misfortune; they have a complexion which nature has made, not orange, but bright green, irregularly marbled with yellow. Nobody, therefore, outside their countries of origin, will buy them. For fruit, strangely enough, is sold on the strength of its appearance, not of its taste. Every grower knows that his product must appeal first to the eye and only secondarily to the palate. Immense pains have been taken to embellish the skin, but how little does any one ever trouble to improve the flavour, of our dessert!

The appeal of bright colours, symmetry and size is irresistible. The sawdust apple of the Middle West is wonderfully red and round; the Californian orange may have no flavour and a hide like a crocodile's -- but it is a golden lamp; and the roundness, redness and goldenness are what the buyer first perceives on entering the shop.
E.B. White, Essays (1977), On a Florida Key:
In the kitchen cabinet is a bag of oranges for morning juice. Each orange is stamped "Color Added." The dyeing of an orange, to make it orange, is man's most impudent gesture to date. It is really an appalling piece of effrontery, carrying the clear implication that Nature doesn't know what she is up to. I think an orange, dyed orange, is as repulsive as a pine cone painted green. I think it is about as ugly a thing as I have ever seen, and it seems hard to believe that here, within ten miles, probably, of the trees that bore the fruit, I can't buy an orange that somebody hasn't smeared with paint. But I doubt that there are many who feel that way about it, because fraudulence has become a national virtue and is well thought of in many circles. In the last twenty-four hours, I see by this morning's paper, 136 cars of oranges have been shipped. There are probably millions of children today who have never seen a natural orange -- only an artificially colored one. If they should see a natural orange they might think something had gone wrong with it.

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