Digressions from Apples

An Apple 
be crisp.

[FireVaney holds out a large, ripe, shiny one for all to see.]

When an apple loses it crispness — and this occurs shortly before its innards begin to turn brown — you should no longer hold interest in it. A soft slice of apple — you should spit it right out. And you should not care how it looks — that spat out, masticated apple slice — after your teeth have attempted the munching of it. A non-crisp apple is an insult to your teeth and taste buds.

Not that you shouldn’t savor a skillfully prepared apple pie, apple cobbler, or apple sauce. No, no. Love apple sauce, and the rest, but only if they meet or exceed the standard. Whose standard? Ah. If you’ve lived long enough to enjoy several (if not many) different apple pies / cobblers / sauces, then you — yes, you — should’ve developed your own standards by now. If not, keep sampling. Trust your taste buds, not your gut. Trust your gut only if it upsets you.

But when you take a bite out of an apple, you’ve got to hear, you’ve got to feel, that essential crispness. For that is happiness. (Or that is happiness.) Not a “warm puppy,” nor a “warm gun,” but a cool, crisp apple on a hot summer day.

Happiness is also a new toothbrush. But we’re talking about apples right now.

Picture yourself in the fresh produce section of your local Jewel, Dominick’s, Kroger, Piggly-Wiggly, or you-name-it go-to grocer. There, you see, the cheaper the apple, chances are, odds are, the longer it’s been sitting in the bin. And so, the cheaper the apple, the more likely it is that you’re getting the shorter end of the bargain.

Where I shop, the most expensive apples are a dollar forty-nine each. This drives me a little nuts. (And if you haven’t noticed by now, I’m already way over the speed limit.) Whenever a thing for sale is decimal point forty-nine, or decimal point ninety-nine, or decimal point anything nine — who are they trying to kid? Do they actually believe people won’t buy the apple, or whatever it is, if the thing is a straight up dollar fifty? Or just plain decimal point zero-zero? If you’re already intent on buying a sack of apples, or a bundle of bananas, or a box of Pop Tarts,* one penny less isn’t going to close the deal. The science on this must be decades old — like from 1939, or 1949, or 1959, or 1969, but definitely not from 1940, or 1950, or 1960, or 1970.

Besides, we all know that sales tax will make the total cost of the apples, bananas, Pop Tarts (or what have you), pennies, nickels and dimes more expensive than the advertised dollar forty-nine. Is it really such a big deal to include the sales tax?

On more than one occasion, I was the kid who had just enough cash to buy the thing before sales tax was applied. We’re talking candy bars and soft drinks, not apples or bananas (but maybe Pop Tarts). I’d stand on my tiptoes at the checkout counter of Gsell’s. Invariably, there’d be a line of impatient suburbanites stretched behind me. All these shoppers had to wait while I gave up the goods and scooped back my heap of change. WHO DOES THIS SERVE? Include the damn sales tax on the label or on the little display sign-thingy. Abolish the phrase, “Plus tax.” Just give us the whole price AS. IT. IS.

And “Sell-by” dates? Lookit: If you’re not willing to sell it after a stated date, I’m not willing to eat it. It’s all about good judgment. Considering the state of the planet, that’s really most of what should be taught in school. Less algebra, more common sense. You know what would help the economy? Basic financial literacy. But when has practicality been the primary driving concern of the public school system? Well, okay, reading, writing, and arithmetic are all useful subjects of study. Beyond that, school gradually becomes a glorified and costly form of babysitting. Sure, now, as a grown adult, I’m interested in science, history, foreign languages, and current events. Back when I was a kid, though, the only current events that held my attention were the machinations of Megatron and Cobra Commander. Maybe the CEO of Hasbro should’ve been appointed to serve as the Secretary of Education.

And all this talk about judges carrying firearms — you tell me, between a crusty old judge and a gangbanger defendant, who do ya think’s gonna be quicker on the draw? Who’s gonna have the better aim? Gangbangers shoot up their neighborhood every day. If that’s not a honed skill, then  it’s a serious hobby. The old robed fart on the “bench” goes for target practice maybe twice in his life. He’s too busy to practice gunslinging. He’s got cigars to smoke, bribes to take, and golf carts to crash.

But I was talking about apples.

What I hate is how certain shoppers, especially the older ones, pick at the food in the produce section — particularly when they start sampling the grapes or the blueberries. “Hey, Grandma? I don’t know where your wrinkly little hands’ve been. You probably don’t know, either.”

Really, nobody should be touching the freakin’ produce with their bare hands — at least, not any of it that you might put directly into your mouth. Go ahead and grope the cantaloupe to your heart’s content. (Or the orange, the grapefruit, the pineapple, etc.) And, yeah, I know, you’re supposed to wash everything before you eat it. But keep in mind, itty-bitty things grow with the assistance of just a little H2O. Just because you put some water on the thing, don’t mean it’s suddenly cleansed of all bacteria. And I’m not suggesting that you scrub your apples and grapes with soap. All I’m saying is, at the store, hands — bare hands — OFF the fresh produce. Use the plastic baggies. Just put ‘em over your hands. Please.

One more thing about your local chained grocer: You know you’re getting old when you find yourself humming or mouthing the lyrics to the song they’re piping in through their hidden speakers. They do that on purpose. They want you comfortably distracted with music from a bygone era. It’s way cheaper than physically sprucing up the “shopping experience.” I’ve fallen for it. Freaks me out, too. Here I’m trying to choose between Frosted Flakes and Honey Nut Cheerios and coming down from the heavens — between the calls for “clean up in aisle six,” or “Nancy to cosmetic” — you’ve got Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. He’s singing “Night Moves.” But it’s not right. A song about teenage hanky-panky is not what I want to be thinking about when I’m considering my breakfast options. And it’s a bittersweet tune for me. Don’t get me wrong, I rocked to all of Seger’s music. But as a teenager, the only hanky-panky I was ever exposed to came from the boob tube.

*[08/01/21: The attorney representing this blog would like you to know that all product placements are unpaid unless or until otherwise noted. The FireVaney officially endorses nothing, save for nostalgia.]

[08/01/21: As with most things, any memory of this sort of occurrence is hazy. I cited Gsell’s because I miss it. Will the day come when we’ll miss Walgreens, CVS, or even Walmart? Perhaps — but only after Amazon monopolizes everything. But at Gsell’s, if I was a penny or two short, the checkout clerk probably cut me some slack.]

[Just kidding, Jeff! I love Amazon. BTW: Before you blast off to space again (‘cuz, trust me, that’ll get old… until you build a working replica of the Millennium Falcon… which, if it actually works, won't be a replica at all… and then we’ll all finally know which “Millennium” said “Falcon” hails from), consider a run for the Oval Office. Or, buy up all the blighted city neighborhoods of the world and redevelop them into non-profit cooperative communities for the impoverished. Dude, think of it: You could be the George Pullman of the 21st century — on a global scale.]§

§[Okay, well, maybe things didn’t work out so great for George. But I am fully confident that you can learn from, and even capitalize on, his missteps.]

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