Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

How picky are you when you pick your produce?


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've noticed a wide range of approaches here. At one extreme, you have people like my wife, who will scale a twelve-foot-high produce display with an ice-axe and crampons in order to get to a nectarine at the back that looks promising. At the other extreme, you have people like my mother, who takes the six nearest nectarines and moves on.

And you?

Related thought: I've noticed that at a lot of markets in Europe they don't let you pick your own produce. The person selling it picks for you. That seems like an awful lot of trust to place in the seller. Then again, companies like FreshDirect and other online grocery services by definition need to use the European model, and a lot of people seem willing to support it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am like your wife, and I am one of those people who smells their produce too.

I hate whole foods produce displays for this reason, its hard to move stuff around without messing up the displays or knocking over a ton of stuff in the process.

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Related thought: I've noticed that at a lot of markets in Europe they don't let you pick your own produce. The person selling it picks for you. That seems like an awful lot of trust to place in the seller.

I will never forget the Venetian fruiterer from whom I bought three peaches one summer's morning. He carefully selected one peach that was perfectly ripe for eating that day, another a bit harder that needed one more day's ripening, and a third that was ready two days later.

Trust well deserved.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm a pick through, climber and a sniffer...at least here in the states; but I know the drill when we're on vacation in Europe.

In Chinatown, I really like to pick thru fruit, as some of it is a day or two from being bad...I get dirty looks from the vendors, but when I see all the Chinese ladies doing it, I don't feel bad at all.

Most store displays (Whole Foods is a good example) are like booby traps - pick one fruit or veg and watch the walls come tumblin' down - but with a little practice (like playing pick up stix) I can generally get to the item I want.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hate whole foods produce displays for this reason, its hard to move stuff around without messing up the displays or knocking over a ton of stuff in the process.

Their arrangement of produce bothers you more than the 300% markup?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

very, very picky. I am definately a pick through, smell, squeeze, knock on the melons kind of a gal...

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Always pick and sniff if possible

just dont sniff a peach while chewing gum...people will think you took a bit and put it back :wacko:

tracey

Grandpa was a fruit/veg man in Queens

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hate whole foods produce displays for this reason, its hard to move stuff around without messing up the displays or knocking over a ton of stuff in the process.

Their arrangement of produce bothers you more than the 300% markup?

oh yeah that too. I shop there maybe 3 times a year. I am fine with good ol' stop n shop

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In Chinatown, I really like to pick thru fruit, as some of it is a day or two from being bad...I get dirty looks from the vendors, but when I see all the Chinese ladies doing it, I don't feel bad at all.

I too frequently shop ethnic markets for produce, as well as discount supermarkets such as Food 4 Less, and have found that I have to examine the goods carefully because with the lower prices comes sometimes-dodgy quality. I am pleased to say, though, that I've never gotten grief from any store employee for picking over their goods. Plus, yeah, I'm far from the only person doing so--some of those matriarchs make me look like a babe in the woods when it comes to being picky. :biggrin: I don't mind at all having to shop a little harder at these kinds of markets, because when I do find the good stuff it rivals the quality of the mainstream supermarkets but at a significantly lower price.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm picky! I will sort thru produce to find just what I want, even though it may take awhile. I try to get onions that are equal in size and nicely shaped! Since most produce managers 'front' their produce, pulling the older stuff to the front and placing the new at the rear of the display, I usually start picking at the back.

Bob R in OKC

Bob R in OKC

Home Brewer, Beer & Food Lover!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Im a toucher/feeler too! :biggrin:

Good habits like choosing your own F&V are hard to break and whilst living in Italy I was always spotted by the fruit and vege people at the weekly market. Got smiles, but I always perceived a little nervousness as I strolled about the displays.

A few of them actually allowed me, a straniera, to choose her own. Now thats trust!! Early on I did bugger it up a little though....thought the fresh ginger was L5.000 a kg but it turned out to be for 100 gms. I had fresh ginger for a year between putting under sherry and in the freezer!! :rolleyes:

I love handling fruit, and you must hold an avocado and roll it in your hand to judge whether it is ripe and not bruised. There is a way of doing it that will not not inflict a bruise to its tender flesh. I too smell melons and pineapples, caress peaches and nectarines, fondle a tomato and undress an ear of corn.

Food porn. I love it!

Now I am sorry to wander here, but having the waiter plate your buffet meal was something I could not change. :sad:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An old lady once criticized me at Whole Foods for befouling the peaches with my grubby hands. This has failed to deter from continuing to do so.

How about small items that you need a lot of, like key limes or lychees? I must admit that I just start shoveling them into the bag without much discrimination.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An old lady once criticized me at Whole Foods for befouling the peaches with my grubby hands. This has failed to deter from continuing to do so.

How about small items that you need a lot of, like key limes or lychees? I must admit that I just start shoveling them into the bag without much discrimination.

that reminds me of this chinese woman from last week who was digging through every box of strawberries for the "perfect" ones. She took one from each box and put them all together in another box. She was pretty ballsy, I was thinking to myself that I wish I could do that, but I might get yelled at.

whats up with asian women and grocery shopping? they certainly know what they are doing :wink:

However when I'm picking greenbeans I take my sweet time and inspect half a handful at a time.

Edited by SheenaGreena (log)
BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am picky, and squeezy, and sniffy and thumpy.

I smell pretty much everything, but especially fruits and herbs.

I am not above hunting down the produce manager to see if they have some non-rusty nappa in the back, or other such things.

Our local chains seem to be a bit lazy with restocking, and with shoveling out the not so nice bits. Although, I guess if some half-blind old guy with no teeth or tastebuds picks up something that's a bit past fresh, well.. the store still made their buck, right?

So, very picky gal here.

Edited to add what is likely my most annoying and least mannerly produce shopping quirk-

When I get fresh corn on the cob, I will strip it down in the store and make sure the kernels are nice and juicy. With my thumbnail. And if not, then they go back on the lowest, front most point of the display.

Any Clerks fans in the house? I have seen older gals switching several eggs out of cartons to get just the right carton at my local grocery. Guess that's not much worse than me and the corn, though- huh?

Edited by blackbox (log)

Shai, santoku-wielding dabbler in many things culinary.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Picky.

I will pick each green bean individually.  :hmmm:

Of course you do. How else can they be all the same size so they will cook perfectly? :laugh:

And none of those thick, lumpy, big -seed-inside stringy ones........ :wacko:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

. . . you must hold an avocado and roll it in your hand to judge whether it is ripe and not bruised. There is a way of doing it that will not not inflict a bruise to its tender flesh. I too smell melons and pineapples, caress peaches and nectarines, fondle a tomato and undress an ear of corn.

Well-said. There simply isn't a substitute for touching and smelling - appearance is only a very small part of the big picture in terms of ripeness. On the few occasions I've just grabbed what was available, the 'produce roulette' has yielded everything from a surprisingly good subject to 00. Frankly, it's not worth the gamble. Particularly so when I'm making fruit salad and need everything to be a similar degree of ripeness - or carefully-selected degrees on a per-fruit basis so that it will remain tasty over the following days.

Of course, this is all on the East coast of the US - I found produce far better on the whole during my years in California.

David aka "DCP"

Amateur protein denaturer, Maillard reaction experimenter, & gourmand-at-large

Link to comment
Share on other sites

really depends. If it's something delicate that will be eaten raw or lightly cooked (in-season tomatoes for caprese, for example) I'll be picky, and maybe go to more than one store or farmer's market stand. If it's for something that's going to be cooked to death (out of season tomatoes for long-simmered sauce, etc.) I'll grab whatevers closest as long as it doesn't look like a disaster.

Alice Waters commented on this in an interview. She felt obligated to use produce that wasn't perfect (because most of the world's produce isn't!) but she wouldn't use it as a featured ingredient. The perfect thing goes in the salad, the bruised thing goes in the mirepoix.

Your question reminded me of of the time I got in trouble a few months ago in China Town for being picky. I was having my parents over for a dinner that I cooked them as a Christmas Present, and I took the opportunity to go nuts and play chef. One of the courses required bok choy, which is always plentiful and perfect in Chinatown. Except that day. I went from store to store and stand to stand and it was all wilted. I finally found a place that had good ones mixed in.

So I picked through the whole bin, looking for a pound of fresh ones. Suddenly the incredulous grocer confronted me in broken english: "No pick, pick, put back, put back! No this one, that one! You take all!" and he mimed filling up a bag with whatever was on top. The message was, "if you want my vegetables you have to buy my crap along with the good stuff!" This sounded so obnoxious that I heard an even more obnoxious reply blurt out of my mouth. In my worst, loudest, dumb American tourist voice, I just said, "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT." And I topped off the bag and bought it and left.

Who was more out of line?

Notes from the underbelly

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm jumping on the 'picky' bandwagon. My wife spends no time picking stuff out and invariably she brings home some amount of stuff I would never have picked (but I remain quiet for the most part in order to retain a harmonious household).

Does it bother anyone else how they bag up all the grapes now? I realize they do it to reduce the store's write-offs, but sometimes you're paying for a lot of bad stuff.

-Mark-

---------------------------------------------------------

"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Edited to add what is likely my most annoying and least mannerly produce shopping quirk-

When I get fresh corn on the cob, I will strip it down in the store and make sure the kernels are nice and juicy.  With my thumbnail.  And if not, then they go back on the lowest, front most point of the display.   

Everyone seems to do this in South Dakota (myself included). We are very particular about our sweet corn. Why would anyone want to purchase wormy ears or ears with shriveled kernels?

Add me to the list of picky people out there smelling, poking, and thumping the produce. I've gotten worse since I started growing my own vegetables.

April

One cantaloupe is ripe and lush/Another's green, another's mush/I'd buy a lot more cantaloupe/ If I possessed a fluoroscope. Ogden Nash

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An old lady once criticized me at Whole Foods for befouling the peaches with my grubby hands. This has failed to deter from continuing to do so.

How about small items that you need a lot of, like key limes or lychees? I must admit that I just start shoveling them into the bag without much discrimination.

that reminds me of this chinese woman from last week who was digging through every box of strawberries for the "perfect" ones. She took one from each box and put them all together in another box. She was pretty ballsy, I was thinking to myself that I wish I could do that, but I might get yelled at.

whats up with asian women and grocery shopping? they certainly know what they are doing :wink:

I'm not asian, nor a woman, but I did that the other day with figs. They are so delicate, that if I just grab a pint of them (they were packaged in little baskets like strawberries), half of them will be mashed or over-ripe. For the price they were charging, I was darn well going to pick out the best ones. I can't have been the first person to do it either, becuase there were half a dozen empty baskets sitting around.

I will touch and smell most fruits, and at least touch vegetables. It is really important that the produce I choose is at the perfect stage so that it will be just ripe enough by the time I use it. If anybody objects to my touching the produce, well, they can deal with it. They should wash it anyways.

Of course, if the store had a problem with it, I would just shop somewhere else.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm picky because I have to be. I have a really hard time finding onions and garlic that aren't old and sprouting or tomatoes that aren't either rotten or completely unripe. I wish I had time to go out of my way to shop at places with high quality produce, but I don't, so I have to spend a while at the store making sure that what I'm paying for will at least be edible. Now as for the european model, I generally approve. I think as long as the overall quality of the produce is high I am willing to let someone else pick it out for me. That being said, I have bought avocados from freshdirect before that were supposed to be ready to eat which were rock hard. Other than that I think that taking the constant pawing of shoppers out of the equation is actually a good thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...