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.