Don’t Judge a Fruit by its Skin

When travelling I enjoy exploring the new and the unexpected; “Change is good”, as I am known to say. Naturally, this includes the world of food where I go in search of new tastes, food combinations and cooking styles.

However, in my recent move to Zambia I had to review one perception I have of myself, ie that I easily adopt all new food. Here, I found many of the local, raw ingredients do not look or feel familiar. Yes, I touch and handle food when I buy it, and I initially avoided things which looked ‘strange’. Instead, I searched for food that was familiar.

Stepping into my new life was not like tourist experiences when I would put on my cap for adventure, relaxation and/or a little luxury. With so much new, I went searching for what I knew as a comforting element in my life. I took the default position many of us use in a variety of challenging and changing environments. And, for me, food was one of the few things that could be my ‘blanket’, my soother. This reaction surprised and interested me both personally as well as in the broader sense of better understanding the factors that prevent and assist people making food and diet choices.

LemonsSo I temporarily forgot the adage “Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover”. Instead I ate food that looked like what I had been buying in London. Needless to say, much of it had been imported and did not have the great flavour I later discovered in some of the local products now regularly added to my table. Mis-shaped lemons; green oranges with yellow flesh and the flavour of sweet grapefruit; spinach with ‘furry’ leaves and a nutty flavour; and ‘bush fruit’ (Musuku Uapaka Kirki) that have a similar flavour and texture to pears. Just a few simple examples.
Musuku Uapaka Kirki

We ‘Eat with our Eyes’ and shop with our eyes too, selecting food for its colour, size, packaging, familiarity and cost. This assumption that being attractive makes it the best choice is well understood by supermarkets as one of the main criteria most people use when shopping. This, along with “Bigger is Better” and the almost contrary adage “Good things in Small Packages” , are very effective marketing pitches.

But for the best food we must use more than your eyes. We must combine our senses of sight, touch and smell.

While the appearance of food is so central to our purchases, it will ultimately be of little significance when cleaned, peeled, sliced, grated, minced, steamed or roasted. The ugly fruit will then look as good as that beautiful piece you left on the shelf.

‘Good’ food may be the two legged carrot, blotchy apple or gnarled potato. It may not be the most appealing to the eye; but the visuals can be quickly replaced with aroma, texture and flavour — all ultimately more important, I think.

From a nutritional perspective, this approach to purchasing food is also preferable. Firstly, food that has not been mass produced may have more blemishes; but in many cases the soil is more nourished, resulting in the food being both healthier and more flavoursome. Recent research supports the practice of buying fresh, locally grown and preferably organic produce. It confirms their higher nutrient content over food that has been mass produced, using large quantities of pesticides, and picked early. (Read the press release and access links to more information on this researchhere.)

I am now buying locally, with the market being a very different and fun experience, along with exploring new flavours, aromas and textures.

The recipe below, Cornmeal and Blue Cheese Muffins, is a recipe I developed using locally sourced ingredients to create a moist Gluten Free muffin.

Cornmeal and Blue Cheese MuffinsCornmeal and Blue Cheese Muffins make a wholesome, savoury treat. Made with cornmeal they have a grainy texture and are suitable for Fodmap and Gluten Free diets, among others.Cornmeal and Blue Cheese Muffins

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