Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Perfect Preservation

The next time you go shopping for food, ask yourself if you can smell any of the fresh fruit and vegetables as you approach them. And if you can, then please send me an email to tell me where you do your shopping!

I suppose I should no longer be surprised by this, but it really is astonishing how the fresh produce aisles of our branches of Sainsbury's and Tesco's do not seem to contain one iota of a single olfactory molecule (except, thank goodness, for when you get to the herbs growing in the little plastic pots). Each time I visit Warsaw, I'm always struck by how every grocery is filled with the edgy tang of tomatoes, the watery green of lettuces and the sharp sweetness of a multitude of raspberries and red currants and gooseberries. All the street stalls selling fresh goods advertise their presence from several metres away with the earthy rubberiness of forest mushrooms or the curiously heavy waft of cabbages. And as for the south of France... well, one of the most enduring memories of a glorious summer near Nice was of the magnetic pull of countless Provençal market stalls.

So why do we settle for less in Britain? Probably for the same reason why we're not bothered by the lack of decent perfumeries: smell is a sensual experience from which most people here are just not interested in deriving pleasure. Their loss, if you ask me.


  1. I have a client that specialises in building cold storage warehouses for fruit and vegetables. I've been told that the apples their clients store, using a special controlled atmosphere and ethyline gas, which were picked last September, can still be eaten 9-12 months later. You tell me how natural that is, and those are quite often the apples and other fruit hitting Tesco and Sainsbury's isles.

  2. I know, I've read similar horror stories in the past.

    Strictly speaking, I suppose preservation isn't intrinsically 'unnatural'. I mean, people have been trying to make produce last longer (by freezing it, salting it, smoking it, pickling it etc) for centuries, and quite often with excellent results. But I guess some methods of preservation are more 'natural' - and more 'faithful - than others. The cold storage you describe certainly preserves the appearance of fruit and veg, but it doesn't seem to do anything for their taste and smell.


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