"I'd eat peaches everyday, sun soakin' bulges in the shade…"

by Katie Pizzuto on December 27, 2008

in Local

peaches1The process of modern food distribution is a gas. If you walk into a supermarket in February with a wind-burned face, kicking slush off your boots, you’ll find yourself surrounded by mountains of tropical fruits and vegetables that show their sweet faces every different month of the year. At any given moment, as you sit at home watching shadows on the wall, someone in the hemisphere is picking the green beans we attribute to July, the peaches and sweet corn we relish in August, the apples we pick in October, the asparagus that sprouts in April or the cherries we devour in June. Logging in more travelling miles than a pharmaceuticals salesman, these waxed, polished and brilliantly lighted beauties beckon you like a lunatic’s dream of supernatural substance.

I realize complaining is futile. I realize that our ancestors staggered into spring on the edge of scurvy, sick of the half-rotted cabbages packed in sand in the root cellar. I realize that “local produce” is a romantic myth I cling to despite the fact that I’ll be the first one grabbing limes for my ceviche, even though I’m pretty damned sure there are no lime trees to be found in northern Jersey. But I miss the ritual of seasonal eating, when oysters needed a month with an “r”, bock beer needed April and the turkey was the grand master g of Thanksgiving and not a year-round source of cheap, bland, low-fat protein.

Having to wait is ceremonial. Waiting folds you into the orderly rhythms of life, much like baseball and football. There ought to be an intimate connection between food and time. Peaches taste like summer; summer tastes like peaches. Having eaten the peach, and wiped our chins, a proportion of our bodies becomes summer, too. A winter peach is meaningless–it’s Christmas in July. And besides, it tastes like the poor starved thing it is, without enough sunlight in its days, picked green in some unimaginably foreign climate and sent off to ripen during its journey. It puts us out of touch with our food.

We don’t have anough ceremonies in our lives as it is, and we can’t afford losing more. Eating a sweet cherry in June should be a sacred event, sucking its sweet juices and staining our fingers. And nothing is more decadent than a tomato you grow yourself, and eat at its appointed time, still warm from the day’s sunlight. The distributors, amazing as they are, still can’t quite bundle up the seasons and truck them around the country like a Phish tour. Sometimes seasons still travel under their own steam, carrying their own food, and it tastes more important for having been waited for.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ron Washam, HMW December 29, 2008

I know what you mean about having to wait, about how it ultimately makes the reward for waiting that much sweeter. It’s much like how I wait and wait for you to post another piece, Katie, and then am generously rewarded with your wit and insight.

Unlike peaches, you are a woman for all seasons.

Ron

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2 Thom Calabrese December 29, 2008

I just had this same conversation. I’m sure if I was in Chile the fruit would be awesome now. They have so far to ship that it can’t be shipped ripe and by the time it gets to us, it’s all form no substance.
My big grip is all the restaurants that serve things like Caprese salad(one of my favorites) with nasty unripen maters. I mean…come on!

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3 Katie Pizzuto December 29, 2008

Thom…I’m currently in Miami and can tell you with no uncertainty that the fruit are amazing right now! I just had a very ripe avocado for breakfast, smeared onto warm Cuban bread, with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt!

Ron…some things, peaches and gonzos included, are much worth waiting for!

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4 Elaine December 31, 2008

Not exactly on topic, but your post put me in mind of a book that I read a couple of years ago. Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. While there are more significant story lines to the book, there’s an underlying ebb and flow of the seasons to it that is just lovely. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it.

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5 Elaine December 31, 2008

Oh, and as always, a great post. Happy New Year!

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6 Katie Pizzuto December 31, 2008

Thanks Elaine! I’ve read a couple of her books including the one famous movie Chocolat is based on. This one is on my long to-read list!!

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7 Linsey January 5, 2009

its the same here with all year round asparagus and strawberries – they are just are not the same out of their natural seasons

that first bite of the first of the season strawberry from local producers – ooooooooh to die for!

but buy a strawberry out of its natural season, imported from thousands of miles away and picked too early from the plant …. you have a very poor imitation

……………

btw – was great meeting you finally katie – i had a fantastic time in usa

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8 Katie Pizzuto January 5, 2009

Pleasure meeting you as well, Lindsey…let’s hope we can get together again!!

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