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Don’t judge a fruit by its shape

I bought a star fruit at the grocery this weekend because it was cute. I obviously have a weakness for cleverly shaped food products. I don’t know what it will taste like. I just took a chance because it’s pretty.

If I were judging people by how cute they looked, I would feel guilty for being prejudiced against the ugly. Yet I have no problem picking apples because they are particularly shiny, even though I know they’re only so shiny because they are coated in a thin layer of wax. My mother once left an apple on the seat of her car during the summer. She didn’t eat it, so she stuck the warm fruit back in the fridge. When I opened the fridge the next day, I saw this:

At first I thought a mold metropolis had materialized on the apple overnight. Then I realized the wax had become opaque due to the extreme heat and cold.

People like pretty fruit. The Florida Tomato Committee once banned the shipment of the UglyRipe tomato, a good tasting but funny looking tomato, outside of Florida due to the breed’s irregular appearance, though that seems to have just changed. The poor little tomato tasted better than other winter tomatoes that seemed to be manufactured from cardboard, but since it didn’t meet size and shape standards they wouldn’t let it cross state lines. There’s a New York Times article here, but it requires registration.

I doubt I would be as enthusiastic to buy my Lean Cuisines for lunch if the picture on the box in anyway resembled the sometimes soupy processed meal that is served in the stylish black plastic tray. They taste fine, but that savory image of freshly tossed veggies and succulent meat served on a white china tray is what sells it. Models in fashion magazines aren’t the only products being PhotoShopped into perfection.

Ugly endangered animals have problems too. Everyone wants to save the pretty pandas, but the freaky little Aye Aye has some PR problems. I’ve certainly complained about fat prejudice in the past, but I must admit I am susceptible to biased behaviors due to appearance in other areas of life. Pretty foods are more likely to find a home in my shopping cart. I’d probably save a panda before I’d save an endangered freshwater mussel. While I still think it’s wrong to discriminate against people because of what they look like, I understand where the initial impulse comes from. Maybe I need to learn to buy the best tasting fruit and not the one that is the roundest and shiniest. You can be a star without being star-shaped.

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19 Comments

Jen • March 6, 2007 at 11:30 am

You’re a star, PQ. And much cuter than an Aye Aye — though he looks like a character from Ice Age to me.

I hate wax on fruit, it’s so hard to really wash it off. One of the many benefits of the farm market is that the fruits and veggies aren’t “made over” before I get to them. I can’t wait for summer!

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honi • March 6, 2007 at 11:41 am

Funny post… I do agree though how many folks do you know that by UGLI fruit as opposed to plain old grapefrut.. UGLI fruit is a really good citrus fruit similiar to a grapefrut.. nice tangy and sweet.. but it is really strange looking… Whole Foods Just opened here.. and its such cool place.. and like you are am more attracted to good looking produce than some of the more wilder alternatives.. but when I do go for blood oranges or Ugli fruit or something equally as different looking… I am usually plesantly surprised…

Have a great week!!

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Linda Sherwood • March 6, 2007 at 12:02 pm

This post reminds me of the commercials for sub sandwiches. On the Subway commercials, the subs look huge and yummy, but then the Blimpie commercial compares a “real” Subway sub to a Blimpie sub, and there is no comparison. Rarely have I found Subway subs to look like the commerical variety. Alas, I live in a Blimpie free area, so I’m not sure if they really live up to their photo or not.

Your point is very interesting. I also have biases against the name of some foods. My dad, a military man, loved SOS (shit on a shingle), which was basically hamburger and gravy on toast (I believe). Whenever my mom made it for dinner, I always opted for PB&J. I refused to eat it. I also couldn’t eat food with eyeballs staring at me (like fish). I want food that doesn’t look like the animal/fish/bird it came from.

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fatkat • March 6, 2007 at 12:08 pm

is it wierd that I now kinda want a pet Aye Aye?

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kalmia • March 6, 2007 at 12:26 pm

So what was the star fruit like? I keep meaning to try one.

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JEM • March 6, 2007 at 2:16 pm

This post reminds me of how disappointed I am in the variety and freshness of fruits and veggies in our grocery stores down here, even whole foods sometimes. I started buying from a local co-op that sells the food they grow here. Its yummy, cheaper, and hey, even prettier! I won’t get things when they are out of season but I am okay with that. You may have one in your area.

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Chris H • March 6, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Yep that animal is UGLY… far out, he really is! The star fruit, how did it taste? We are all guilty of being biased when it comes to how something/someone looks, but nowdays when I see an obese person, I never think ‘FAT LAZY UGLY”, I think… I wish I could tell you how wonderful you would feel if you lost your weight! I am so sad for people who are in a rut, for whatever reason, cos I am living testement to how life really is worth living, at a healthy weight with a healthy mind.

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Mymsie • March 6, 2007 at 3:07 pm

Poor li’l aye aye! Maybe they’d be more popular if they tied star fruits around their necks! ;)

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Debbie • March 6, 2007 at 5:04 pm

The first time I saw the hairy outside of a kiwi fruit, I thought, “there is no way I’m going to try that.” But someone talked me into it and I loved it. I’ve also eaten those ugly tomatoes you talked about and they’re delicious.

I still think twice before trying ugly food, but unless it smells bad, too, I’ll usually take a shot. Some of the ugliest food actually tastes the best.

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Allison • March 6, 2007 at 6:03 pm

Apples have a natural wax that keeps them from losing moisture through their skin. That wax is stripped off during washing when they’re harvested. The wax that distributors spray on is a natural substitute (ie. is taken from a natural source) for the original wax.

I love looking at the pictures of food in Real Simple or similar magazines. They always look so good and tasty. When I’m replicated them? They never look the same (although they do taste mighty good!)

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Heather • March 6, 2007 at 6:31 pm

Star fruit is delicious. Even if you only wanted it for its looks. ;)

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Patty • March 7, 2007 at 2:38 pm

Star fruit looks interesting, will have to try it. I thought kiwi looked ugly too but it’s great. Also like mangos, pineappply, papaya, anything a little different when the regular apples get boring.

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kelly • March 7, 2007 at 3:33 pm

star fruit is yummy and cute.

that animal is going to haunt my dreams!!

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jae • March 7, 2007 at 4:37 pm

That little Aye Aye is so creepy he’s cute. Wax on apples and cucumbers is so annoying to me, I wash mine with soap and then I worry about the soap, then the food just becomes unappealing to me. Sounds like an excuse not to eat veggies, hu? ~j

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Christy • March 7, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Call me crazy but I think the little Aye Aye is cute as can be. He was made to look that way for a reason, we just don’t know what the reason is.

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Whitney • March 7, 2007 at 6:53 pm

“If I were judging people by how cute they looked, I would feel guilty for being prejudiced against the ugly.”

People in glass houses…

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the veggie paparazzo • March 8, 2007 at 6:06 pm

However it looks, local, organic produce rules! Produce tastes so much better fresh from the earth, and I prefer my fruits and veggies au natural. You can find a source for local produce at http://www.localharvest.org.

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Phoenix • March 8, 2007 at 10:02 pm

starfruits are awesome! too bad they are hard to find where i live. :(

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sweet_talker • April 6, 2007 at 11:50 pm

never thought of that before! interesting topic.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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