Volume 24, Number 4

The History of Fruit

Rebecca Troy

The grocery store has its usual mix of people, from all walks of life. I look around this bustling portal of modern convenience. Seeing all these people reminds me that we all come from somewhere. We all have a history. There are no exceptions. Food is no different. It is my belief that fruit has one of the most complex histories around. Most fruit travels for miles, sometimes hundreds, thousands of miles, just to grace our supermarket shelves. If fruit could talk, I am certain it would have only interesting stories to tell us.

As I hold the mighty banana in my right hand, I can imagine that some might be interested to know the history of this strange-shaped fruit before committing themselves to a purchase. They might hold the opinion that the banana is a terrible fruit. Well, not terrible in the sense that they have a specific ulterior motive, one that could potentially undermine the entire system of evolution. But they could be understood as being insidious and therefore be classified as a fruit that should not be trusted. Perhaps some might think that bananas have an agenda, unlike the simple lettuce leaf. The lettuce leaf is either crisp or not, and that relationship with duality makes it an honest food.

I could imagine that the simple lettuce leaf did once have top billing in the food pyramid, but due to the banana’s campaign of health—its potassium properties, and it being constantly promoted on national television, where it is usually being consumed by our primate brothers and sisters—the lettuce leaf stood no chance at securing a foothold in the hearts of the general population. No one could fault the lettuce leaf for wanting the kind of respect that the banana has gotten in the past. In fact, I have heard that the lettuce leaf did find “followers.” These “followers” of the lettuce leaf only eat grass, nuts and seeds; my mother calls them vegetarians. I have heard that these people mainly reside on the West Coast.

Apples are never too far from the banana. They sit in packs, staring out at the shopper, waiting to be a part of the shopping experience. I personally believe the apple to be a superior fruit. The apple is round, representing the circle of life, and when the light hits the side of its skin, you can see your own reflection in the green mirror. No other fruit can show you what you look like. The apple has an aura of mystery around it. On quiet nights, when the wind is low and the air is still, I can almost hear the apple calling to me from the kitchen table. I know it wants to tell me its story. I am sure it is a fascinating one; however, it always calls to me when I am busy. The apple may not have great timing, but it is still a superb fruit. No other fruit holds a lethal poison within its core. It is certainly not a fruit you want to piss off, but I find that the apple is quite agreeable in all circumstances, so I never fear the wrath of the apple.

I love to see strawberries from different angles; they are not one-dimensional fruits, so they shouldn’t be treated as such. I, therefore, hold a plastic container filled with these little bundles of joy up to the bright lights of the supermarket, all the while admiring the notoriety they have achieved in the world. The strawberry is complex. Its red, vibrant color could have given the strawberry a bad reputation. It could very well be regarded as a dangerous fruit. Aren’t we told at traffic lights to stop when that color appears before us? The color red is a warning; it tells us to slow down, to pay attention. Strawberries are red, but not everyone ceases eating them just because of their color. In fact, strawberries are seen as being more attractive and are more inviting because of their incorporation of the color red.

Strawberries are a popular fruit. I think it is because of their size. It is not just that they are not cumbersome to carry, it is because they are a personable fruit; they wear a green stalk “hat.” Everyone likes to be greeted, be it at their own front door by their wife or, if you are lucky, a dog. The strawberry reminds us there is still politeness in the world. Eating a seemingly friendly fruit makes people feel at ease with their life. Strawberries, therefore, give people a sense of security in a faltering world.

Grapes are always located next to the strawberries; I imagine that is because grapes make excellent confidants for the strawberry. They are, after all, about the same size, therefore they probably have similar interests and so forth. Regardless of the affection that the strawberry may have for the grape, many seem to be on the fence when it comes to these small, round bites of perfection. It is, of course, the Greeks who made the world pay attention to the mighty grape. It is a fruit that is associated with gods and royalty. In Greek times young male lovers fed grapes to their older, richer lovers, men with power and fame. I am told that this still happens in San Francisco. The older men may not be emperors, but the mighty grape is still used in much the same way as it was in ancient Greece.

Let’s not forget that grapes are made into wine. Grapes are stomped on by young women in a large barrel as part of the process of wine-making. I, for one, cannot think about the grape without thinking about women’s feet. Wine is considered to be a medicine in Italy, and a necessity in France. I have never been to either of those places. However, I have heard that if you try to take a bottle of wine off a Frenchman’s table before he has had time to finish it, he will curse your family tree until the end of eternity. I am not entirely sure how diabolical the Frenchman’s curse is, but I figure it’s best not to find out.

The pear is a loner fruit. It is usually found wandering the supermarket floors after it has made its escape from a shopper’s basket. It never seems to want to be purchased. After all, the pear is often mistaken for the apple, so the pear has spent much of its lonely life constructing an identity away from its round, crisp nemesis—that takes its toll on a young fruit’s psyche. One, therefore, cannot blame the pear for not wanting to be purchased. How can the pear be sure that the potential consumer did not really want an apple? No blame should lie at the feet of the uninformed shopper, either, for continually confusing the pear with the apple. It is understandable. They both appear in many children's rhymes and have a similar color. It is, however, the delicate shape of a pear, with its voluptuous curves—which give the pear the appearance of a Las Vegas showgirl—that finally sets the pear apart from the apple. I have never personally been to Las Vegas, but I hear that it is a fine place to lose your mind. And I never intend to lose my mind, so I have no interest in either traveling to Las Vegas or buying and eating a pear.

I look down at my cart. It is half full with various fruits waiting to be bought and consumed by me. I can hardly contain my excitement. I have to refrain from sharing my knowledge of fruit history with the checkout clerk. I have been told that the grocery store’s policy states that customers are not allowed to take up the clerk’s time with matters that are considered “off subject.” It is therefore up to individuals to discover the magical history of fruits for themselves, and I sincerely hope that they do.