I looked around the produce section of my grocery store last weekend and came to this startling realization, “Hey! There’s a lot of fruit here!” When shopping for food I tend to go directly for what is on my list or just grab items that I’m familiar with. I tune out any extraneous data like I ignore most ads in magazines. But ever since my impulse purchase of a starfruit earlier this month, I realized there is a lot of food out there that I have never tried. While there’s nothing wrong with going bananas for a red delicious apple, it occurred to me I might be somewhat narrow-minded in my fruit world view. So, I’ve started trying some fruits and veggies which might be familiar to many of you all, but are as new to me as if I were catching a rerun of a TV show I’d never seen.
First up was the brown Asian pear. A protective white, netted, foam, covered its bottom half, which made it look like it was wearing pants. This made it irresistible to me. Maybe if they started dressing the apples and bananas in miniature dresses, produce sales would boom. Watch out Bratz dolls!
The interesting thing about eating a new fruit was that I had no expectation of what it should taste like. I love D’Anjou pears because they are juicy and sound vaguely French, but I didn’t know how much the brown pear would taste like them. I read in the book Mindless Eating that our expectations of how a food should taste actually shape how we perceive it to taste. For example, a chef on a navy ship during a war accidentally ordered too much lemon Jell-O and too little of the soldiers’ favorite flavor cherry. After the cherry Jell-O ran out, the crew started to complain, so the chef just took the lemon Jell-O, colored it red and served it. The crew was convinced they were eating cherry Jell-O again, even though it was actually lemon.
It was interesting going into an eating experience blind, though my impressions of what a pear should taste like probably left some chalky residue on an otherwise blank slate. The brown pear was crunchier than a D’Anjou pear, though not as hard as a Bartlett pear. It also had faint taste of bread to it. It was a satisfactory eating experience, but considering the price of the Asian pear, I doubt I’ll buy one again, even if calling it Asian makes it sound very exotic despite the fact it was probably grown in this country. It’s just as well because if I were ever to anthropomorphize this fruit for a blog entry and make it have a fake conversation with other fruit in the produce section, I’d have to make it speak Chinese or Korean or something, which is well out of my linguistic bullshitting abilities.
My next new fruit experience was the plum. I can’t ever recall eating a plum, which seems very odd because a plum is nowhere near as exotic as a starfruit. It’d be like saying I’d never had coffee at a Starbucks. I liked plums so much that I’ve taken to buying 5 or 6 of them at a time. They’re firm but juicy, sweet but somewhat tart, and come in a small serving size which is good for snacking. As long as I don’t bite in too fast and chip my teeth on the pit, they’re a great addition to PastaQueen’s approved fruit list.
Last night I finally cooked the sweet potato I bought about two weeks ago. This is another fairly common vegetable that I have avoided eating all my life for no real reason. I don’t have any psychological hang-ups against sweet potatoes. I never had a horrible sweet potato eating incident in my youth. I was never hit by a sweet potato delivery truck and buried in a pile of tubers, their eyes coldly staring at me as I was mashed by potatoes. It took me about 3 trips to the grocery store before I could even find the sweet potatoes. I never did find them at Kroger, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not there, just that I couldn’t locate them among the bags of regular potatoes and red potatoes. Eventually I picked one up at Meijer when I was stocking up on pistachios since they have a larger produce section.
The biggest obstacle in eating the sweet potato was figuring out how to cook it. I was disappointed they didn’t print instructions on it in ink made out of food coloring. All the recipes I searched for turned up complex sweet potato concoctions like salads and pies. I thought it best to try the sweet potato basically on its own for my first sampling so I didn’t become biased against it if other ingredients made it taste nasty. I settled on a quick and easy sweet potato fries recipe which involved slicing the sweet potato up and tossing it with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, ¼ tsp of salt, and ½ tsp of paprika. Then I baked the slices for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, turned them and baked for another 10 minutes.
This was a recipe I might need to destroy every copy of for the safety of mankind. The knowledge, it is dangerous. The fries were delicious. I ate the whole batch, which was bad because I used a sweet potato the size of a mutant guinea pig. I attempted to put half of the batch in a Tupperware bowl to stick in the fridge, but I kept picking out just one more fry before putting it inside. Eventually all I was left with was an extra Tupperware container to clean. If I make this again, I will have to be sure to buy a very small sweet potato since I obviously have no self-control.