Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Fruit Just Doesn't Taste Right Anymore

Summertime in southern California used to be a great time to be a kid, especially if you come from a large family. It meant that there were a lot of brothers and sisters and cousins to play with. It also meant that big brother or sister were in charge because the parents usually had to work. It meant that the doors would be flung open and we would be kicked out of the house.

The best part, however, was the abundance of summer fruit. The concept of buying fruit from the store seemed so strange to me because, for a time, we had all the fruit we could eat. Everybody in the neighborhood had fruit trees and almost everyone had to go to work. We thought nothing of hopping fences and helping ourselves. All summer long we ate peaches, plums, apricots, loquats, pomegranates, nectarines and cherries. They were ours for the taking.

But we soon had competition.

Every kid in the neighborhood had the same idea but there were rules, and for a while everything worked out just fine. You didn’t trash the yard or the tree because people would get mad and buy big dogs or put glass or nails on the top of their fences. Or they would prune back the tree so that it bore no fruit at all. You only took what you could eat that day and then you returned the next to get some more. There was plenty of fruit for everyone and it lasted all summer.

That was until a new family moved into the neighborhood. They moved onto our street. I don’t remember their names. We called them the “dirt kids” because they were always dirty. I remember there were a lot of them. There were at least three sets of twins, which was odd, especially in the days before in vitro fertilization. They were like locusts. They would descend upon a tree and eat everything including the leaves. They broke off branches and basically destroyed the tree… it never bore fruit again.

Every summer there were fewer and fewer trees to pick fruit from and the dirt kids were expanding out to a larger radius. Every summer it was a race to get to the fruit trees before the dirt kids could. Which meant we had to eat the fruit while it was still green in most cases. As a result, my taste in fruit hovers somewhere between ripe and almost ripe... bordering on barely ripe and still a little green. To this day I don’t really care for the ripened fruit available in the store; most of it is too sweet or too soft. It just doesn’t taste right.

I guess I'm going to have to plant my own trees and hope that the dirt kids have not had dirt kids of their own!

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