The Best of Andy Rooney
(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published Dec. 18, 2004.)
A trip to the supermarket is one of the pleasures of my Saturdays. It's satisfying to have worked all week to make enough money to be able to spend some of it on Saturday for things you see in a store. I buy things I don't need. It seems uncaring to say in a world where so many people are starving, but shopping, for many Americans, is entertainment.
I'm dismayed lately by the fact that two of my favorite things to eat, oranges and tomatoes, are either so expensive or of such poor quality that I wouldn't think of buying any of either. I'm used to melons being hard, green, expensive and inedible when I buy them anywhere in the eastern part of the United States. This is because they're grown in places like Arizona and New Mexico and are picked before they're ripe. They are then shipped green, arrive green and are sold green.
Some melons don't ripen once they're picked. They reach the stores in New York where I foolishly buy one occasionally and they're always rock hard and inedible. One of my New Year's resolutions will be not to buy another cantaloupe.
Tomatoes have deteriorated over the past 20 years because of genetic alterations made to their seed by scientists in the business of horticulture. Tomatoes are harder and not so red and juicy as they used to be. It makes them easier to ship and reduces the loss due to rotting in transit. I don't know what these scientists have done to tomatoes, but they've done something and it isn't good for those of us who eat tomatoes.
It seems likely that wholesale buyers of tomatoes like
Until recently, oranges have been dependably good and affordable. There's no better and more satisfying taste than a tall, cool glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, and I miss being able to have one. The so-called "freshly-squeezed" product that comes in plastic milk bottles is good but no match for genuinely fresh-squeezed juice.
California oranges are still available, but you shouldn't squeeze a California orange. You peel and eat their navel oranges. They have more meat and less juice than a Florida juice orange. You squeeze a Florida orange -- except this year. Yesterday, in my supermarket, the sign over a bin of small Florida oranges said, "Three for $1.99." It would probably take four of those little oranges to make an acceptable glass of six or eight ounces of juice, and $2.65 for a drink of orange juice is out of my price range.
I am unsympathetic to the tomato growers because they brought on some of the deterioration of their product themselves. However, both orange and tomato growers were victims this year of bad weather. Storms did in their crops and the shortage and consequent soaring prices are not all their fault.
When I'm in a store thinking about getting dinner, I often end up with chicken. There's nothing better and cheaper that we produce in such abundance and nothing that can be cooked in so many different and interesting ways. I like steak, but I'm uneasy about the animals we kill to get it. I don't have the same feeling about chicken or fish. I have occasionally worried over whether a fish suffers much when it's caught and dies out of water. Is it like drowning for a human?
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