Joyless Pursuit of Perfection

There was a very pretty opinion piece in the NYT this week by Timothy Egan. It covers his trip during harvest time to lush and fertile Yakima Valley in Washington State, and dovetails on the recent story about the dancer paralyzed after eating an E. Coli tainted burger grilled by her mom. In addition to beautiful descriptions, even if some of the transitions are choppy, the piece offers a few fun tidbits (apples originated from Kazakhstan?!?!) and, of course, food politics.

My favorite parts, however, are his references to perfection. He does get deeply into it, but I think some misguided pursuit of this unattainable state indirectly causes rows of identical cookies, identical boxes of cereal, identical frozen meals and in, Egan's view, tasteless apples.

Here is an excerpt:

"Red Delicious, which is to a fruit bowl what plastic surgery is to beauty, is still the most popular apple — a polished piece of fruit that can keep its buffed pose year-round in near-freezing warehouses, but is utterly tasteless.

Honeycrisp, which is sunshine in a marbled orb, and Gala and Fuji are all coming on, as are innumerable varieties that had nearly been lost in the joyless pursuit of the perfect apple....

... How much of the danger from leafy vegetables can be blamed on the industrial model that produces cheap calories I don’t know. But as consumers follow Michael Pollan’s advice to get to know our food producers, we will learn to see the processed burger and the industrial vegetables for what they are — cheap global commodities that carry some risk.

The best antidote for such a thing is to see, touch and experience food as it comes off the fields. As imperfect as this harvest picture is, it satisfies a need that has never bred out of us as people."

honeycrisp apples via Dreamstime

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