The strawberry surprise engenders concerns about the future of food

My friend Steve is back in town.  He had to choose between spending March in Minnesota or Costa Rica; and he brought a friend, John.  John is an architect, and he saw more buildings in downtown San José in a weekend than I saw in my first month here.  He agreed with me that San José is under enjoyed by tourists who are still being advised to “avoid downtown San José.”  The city is filled with museums, art galleries, some stunning buildings, charming and restful parks and a maze of a market where you can buy a variety of things at a reasonable price. There also is often something musical happening in the parks. And finally, there are the people.  Pedestrians are everywhere. The walking boulevards are streaming with people, and I have always found the atmosphere positive and welcoming.
We celebrated Steve’s return with the three of us going to the feriain Pavas this past Saturday.  It has been a while for me, because neither the weather nor I was in the mood.  Saturday was a perfect feria day.  It was nice to be back to get Ana’s very fresh eggs.  I am tired of eggs from the supermarket that stand upright in the water, which means they may be paying attention but they are not that fresh.  Ana’s eggs lie on their side, the way they started out in the world.  I was also able to get a bottle of honey at my honey stand.  I have learned to avoid buying it from the people who walk around with unlabeled bottles of honey and won’t let you smell what’s inside.  Whatever it is, it is not honey.

Driving to the feria I saw a young man selling beautiful red strawberries and rejoiced that they are in season, so I bought a large carton of big red strawberries at the feria.  I could hardly wait to get them home to try.  When I finally did wash the first one and take a bite. I was transported into a brave and frightening new world.  It was sour!  I have never eaten a perfect, big, red, and ripe looking strawberry that was sour!  Strawberries are going the way of tomatoes:  beautiful to look at, sturdy, and great for shipping. Eating them is another matter.  The pleasure is gone. So we add sugar to fruits and salt to vegetables, hoping to discover the taste.

One way to control people is to control what we eat. The United States has accepted genetically modified foods (and this includes fruits and vegetables), but other countries have not.  One can only hope that Costa Rica will reconsider what is permissible to add to their once delicious, although maybe not perfect looking crops of fruits and vegetables.

Still, the feria is a great way to start one’s day.  You don’t have to buy anything. You can try to resist. You will get a lift of psychic nutrients just walking the rows of food stands and maybe stopping to have breakfast at one of the mini sodas.

I am becoming preoccupied with food — the kind that grows, not the packaged kind.  Everything seems to be getting larger.  Unless you pay premium prices for the mini vegetables, you will find things like carrots and zucchini that, if they keep growing, will be the size of Jack’s beanstalk.  Yet, bigger is not necessarily better.  In her “Classic Italian Cookbook,” Marcella Hazan says that one should not buy zucchini longer than six inches, nor more than an inch and a half in diameter. She would be horrified to see what they have in some stalls.

I recently read some disturbing news about the use of antibiotics mainly to make animals (and who knows, maybe vegetables) larger as well to kill bacteria.

I am beginning to feel as if the ghost of Buckminster Fuller has taken up occupancy in me.  Like him, I say over and over, “Small is beautiful.” And may I add, “And probably better for us.”

However, I am something of a hypocrite.  Steve, John and I retired to a Te con Te Bistro afterwards for breakfast.  John ate a healthy Tico breakfast with rice and beans, an egg, and I don’t know what else because I was too busy enjoying my very large croissant and strawberry naturale drink.  I wonder where they buy their strawberries.

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