In these days of quarantine, I am getting my vegetables and fruits via a curbside pickup arrangement at our local farmers market. One of the things I miss about shopping for produce myself is making my choices based on color, size, and overall appearance of the given fruit or vegetable.
My standards in those regards are different from what they used to be. Since I learned that smaller, more colorful, misshapen or mildly unusual in appearance, and more fragrant items tend to be the most nutritious on the stand, I’m wishing I could make my “artful” picks myself. I do look forward to the day I can shop again with my own two hands (and eyes and nose)!
A lot of this is counter-intuitive. We’re trained to think bigger and “perfect” is better. But when it comes to produce, that isn’t so. Blips are better. They mean the fruit or vegetable had to fight a little, and in the midst of that fight the item will have produced more antioxidants. That which is fragrant is generally the more ripe. Smaller fruits and vegetables have more nutrition, because the sun reached more to the core. And color is queen—at least if it wasn’t induced falsely—because it also means more antioxidants were produced as a protective measure against the harsh rays of the sun.
Yet many consumers reject the very foods that are the best. And food waste takes its place as a top climate issue. I’ve been part of this system as much as anyone else, though now I’m aiming to “eat artful” instead. You can do the same, if not at your local grocery store, then through businesses like Misfits and Imperfect Foods.
Together, we can make the world a healthier, more artfully nutritious place.
Think about how you shop for fruits and vegetables (if you aren’t the shopper, write about the person who is). What are your current standards for choosing any given item (size, color, shape)? How might you like to explore shifting your standards, to increase the nutritional value of your foods?
In “Pied Beauty,” Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote quite vividly about all that is “spare” and “strange.” His economy of sound is exceedlingly rich—so much so that you can almost feel it in your mouth, even when not reading aloud.
Try writing your poem in a Hopkins-esque style. Write about how you currently shop for your produce or how you wish to shop for it in the future. Alternately, write a poem from the point of view of the nutritious smaller, more colorful, more unusually textured fruit or vegetable. Or write about the topic of food perfection and imperfection in general, and its effect on the world.
To Mr. Hopkins, on Foods
Left Off the Shelves
Due to Their “Imperfectness”
Gerard, I know you
were thinking speckled
freckled dappled stippled
rippled ruffled rolled
over and over with
the beauty of the
unused, unusual, unnoticed
in a nutshell, sure as
light let fall over diamond
waters at day’s end.
Little could you know
how the truly unruly are rich
with the glories of generous
nutritional gifts, artfulness
all plated. Gold, pure and simple
for those who buy the forgettable
vegetable, and unround
unsung undazzling fruit.