Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Where Has the Flavor Gone?

Mexican oranges are not orange. They’re more of a mottled, green-orange that does not exactly inspire confidence in the first-time buyer. They’re also a little small. Basically, Mexican oranges have very little in common with the very same fruit sold in the U.S. that is, actually, orange.
However, looks are not everything. As much as the oranges look pretty in the U.S. – being huge and perfectly round and orange – they are nothing compared to the juicy, dripping-with-flavor sweetness of the unorange oranges found here.
The same is true for limes. And mangoes. And papayas. And avocadoes. It is not simply that I have more time to savor the flavors here in Mexico; the truth of the matter is that there is more flavor here, even if it comes in an imperfect package.
Among many orchardists in the States, the Red Delicious is considered the potato of apples. This is because – according to my father the orchardist – there was a point where they began marketing Red Delicious for their color: for having a perfectly red exterior. Soon, demand began to reflect this genius of marketing, and consumers were buying the biggest apples with the best-looking exterior. In turn, tree growers began selling strains of trees that grew this perfect fruit, and growers began to buy these trees to grow the apples that were in such high demand. The apple’s taste was secondary to how it looked.
Obviously this was not the first or the last fruit or vegetable that this has happened to. The oranges are a perfect example. Unfortunately, in the land of the grocery store, where there are no seasons and the fruit and vegetables are bought and sold based on their looks, much of the flavor goes by the wayside.
It’s not just our food, however. The States has become so involved in how something looks that all the flavor has been leeched out for the sake of the image. Yes, we drive nice cars and live in nice houses, but we also work weekends and are always attached to our work email. We are so exhausted making the money to fund our images as successful fun-loving people that we don’t actually have time to be those people. We are so caught up in having that beautiful shiny exterior that our insides suffer, our souls shrivel, and we live for the two-week vacation where we can forget that the rest of our lives are all about work.
Obviously there are people out there who use their credit cards because they can’t afford food and diapers, but there are many more whose debts come from buying non-essentials because everyone else has or wants them. For myself, it has always been eating out: I love to do it, even when I can’t necessarily afford it, and I love to cook; I certainly don’t need to eat out. How much debt would we have if we just bought what we needed?
Mexico has holidays all the time. They work hard, make much less money, yet are much more likely to smile at you on the street. Their lives seem even more full of life than ours, despite all we do to fill them. As for us, we are perfectly round and perfectly colored, but how much flavor do we have inside?

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