A century or so ago, when I was a just kid, my Grandmother always had a bowl of fruit on the dining room table. The apples were the crispest, sweetest ever plucked from a tree. The pears were so juicy, you had to lean forward to keep from dribbling onto your clothes. Cherries, grapes, and plums made your taste buds sing.
Today, when you go to the supermarket, the fruit is rock hard, not even close to ripe. It was taken from the tree while still green. If it had been ripe and soft when picked, it would be bruised by the time it bounced around on a bumpy truck and reached the consumer. Nobody would buy something as flavorless as that. Most fruit sold today would not ripen in Grandma’s bowl. It has to get its final magic right on the tree for full flavor.
We’re just too darned far from that tree. As a result, Americans have a very different idea of how good fruit can be.
For some time I thought the difference in taste might be because the older we get, the more of our taste buds go dormant. That theory was put to rest a few years ago when there was a sudden glut on the California pear market. A strike by pickers slowed down picking—and picked up flavor. The supermarkets were flooded with pears that were actually ripe, juicy and—wait for it—tasted like the good old days. So, it wasn’t my dying taste buds, after all.
Grandma would have been pleased.