In Praise of Produce

Posted: July 2, 2014 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

In life, as in art, the beautiful moves in curves. ~Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

As a young student in art and art history classes, I was initially perplexed and unimpressed by the artistic tradition of the still life. Tables overflowing with fruits and vegetables seemed strangely lifeless, the “still” in still life feeding my early misunderstanding. Ultimately, I learned to appreciate and revere not only the art form, but the notions that inform it.

Produce stalls at Cleveland’s West Side Market

The West Side Market in Cleveland introduced me to produce stalls stacked high with fruits and vegetables. A field trip in sixth grade remains vivid in my memory because I experienced my first taste of fresh pineapple; the moment revealed canned fruit to be a syrupy sham.

When I worked as a grocery store cashier after college, my awareness of the beauty and complexity of produce deepened and developed; I began to recognize the loveliness of fruits and vegetables: glorious colors, wonderful shapes, infinite textures and sizes.

 

On the west coast of Ireland in 2002, I rose early and went for a walk to the sea. When I returned the proprietor of the B & B, The Churchfield, brought my breakfast. The sweet Irishwoman created a fruit plate for me, one that miraculously contained only my favorites: grapes, berries, kiwi, and bananas all arranged like a rainbow.

My mother’s traditional “fruit boat” carved from a watermelon filled with diced fruits emerges each Fourth of July. I push past the filler of cantaloupe and honeydew to find the best items. Preferences span the spectrum of red: pink watermelon, red strawberries, and crimson cherries.

The abundance of a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the many things we all relish during the summer months. Biting into a tomato as though it were an apple seems perfectly reasonable. Simple salads seem unspeakably delicious. Farmers’ Markets are a spectacle of the marvels of fresh and local everything.

still-life-1918Diego Rivera

Still Life, 1918 by Diego Rivera

How obvious now to see a still life pulsates as a celebration of plenty—an astonishing abundance—a study in perspective, an understanding of depth, and an initiation into the nature of the relationship of things.

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