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Imperfect, or ‘ugly’, produce is making its way to grocery stores in Toronto. Despite the negative connotations of these labels, these fruits and vegetables are actually uniquely beautiful for several important reasons.
Here is a new guest post by Laura Alary that offers a unique perspective.
For the past few months I have been on a quest for imperfect fruits or vegetables. This afternoon, I found my first bag of apples.
My search began earlier this year when I read an article about French supermarkets that sell misshapen produce at discounted prices. Excellent idea, I thought. Reduce waste and save money at the same time.
Reducing Waste and Saving Money
What really caught my attention, though, was not simply the possibility of trimming my grocery bill, but the way the author framed the issue. One in five fruits and vegetables grown in the United States is discarded because it does not meet the cosmetic standard for the food industry. Some poor tubers are simply too ugly for the grocery store.
I laughed out loud when the author compared these unfortunate fruits and vegetables to wallflowers at a junior high dance—so much to offer on the inside, yet not quite pretty enough. My heart went out to all those scabby apples and knobby potatoes. Being an imperfect vegetable myself, I felt a kind of outrage on their behalf.
More outrageous is the knowledge that perfectly good produce is ending up in landfill because consumers are so obsessed with appearance.
On ‘Perfect Produce’ and the Idea of Perfection
Determined to take at least one small step to oppose such wastefulness, I dragged my children to the grocery store to look for less-than-perfect produce. There was none to be found—only the usual pyramids of gleaming apples and flawlessly uniform oranges. Poking critically at every single piece of fruit, my youngest daughter announced that she was looking for “the best one.” “How do you know which one is the best?” asked her older sister. “They’re all the same,” muttered their older brother. “Waxed and fake.”
My eyes strayed to the array of magazines by the checkout. A bevy of airbrushed women with gleaming teeth and hair smiled from the covers.
What Does the Appearance of Things Really Tell Us?
Particularly since having children, I have tried to be careful about how I speak about and treat my own body. I avoid magazines that present unrealistic images of physical beauty. My children and I talk a lot about healthy eating and how exercise makes us strong and flexible. From my yoga teacher, I have picked up the habit of saying thank you—to the feet that carry me on daily walks outdoors, to the hands that prepare a meal, or learn a new song on guitar. When my kids tease me about getting more grey hair, I just laugh and tell them I earned every strand. Sure I’ve got some scars—but who doesn’t?
Loblaws and “Naturally Imperfect” Fruits and Vegetables
When Loblaws launched its “Naturally Imperfect” line of fruits and vegetables in 2016, I suspect it was not to convey a message about physical perfection. But the metaphor is there all the same. Kudos to Loblaws for taking this small step toward cutting down on food waste, for passing the savings onto consumers, and for giving “ugly” produce a bit of dignity.
If any of this strikes a chord with you—either saving a few dollars or resisting the pursuit of the perfect image—then ask your local store manager to start stocking imperfect fruits and vegetables. Seek out the chains that make room for scabby apples, gnarled carrots, and knobby potatoes. Visit a market and support your local farmers. Or grow your own vegetables and exult in all their weird and wonderful flaws.
And while you’re at it, you might want to exult in your own too.
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Here are some other great food posts!
Author: Laura Alary Google
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