The Fruit Detective

July 31, 2009

“Most food writing is about cooking– it’s less about the ingredients than about the rendering of those ingredients, and the consuming of them in communal settings. [David] Karp is interested in the primal act of tasting– eating fruit right from the tree, vine or bush. (“I’m not a foodie,” he says. “I’m a fruitie.”) His goal is sensual pleasure, but he has a rarefied idea of what fruit should taste like. The particular kind of taste he’s after is one that the nineteenth-century writers on fruit described as “high flavor”– a fecund, almost gamy taste that, according to Karp, has been all but lost as fruits have been bred for mass production and long-distance shipping. “High flavor is the flavor of a pheasant, hung until high, “he said. “You bite into the fruit, you taste the sugar, the texture, the acidity, and there’s an almost overpowering aroma. That’s what fruit should taste like. But Americans don’t know that, because most of the fruit we eat is trash fruit.” A real peach, allowed to ripen on the tree, is too fragile to withstand the rigors of a cross country journey by truck or train, and so breeders have created low-acid, high-sugar peaches, which can be picked when they’re still very had but still taste sort of sweet.”
Excerpt from “The Fruit Detective” by John Seabrook, The New Yorker, August 19, 2002

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