“The strawberries taste like strawberries!”

It isn’t exactly the magical candyland of Willy Wonka,   2005_charlie_and_the_chocolate_factory_009
but it just so happened that when my parents and I were travelling in Peru, they were
consistently amazed at the fierce flavors of seemingly commonplace foods. They
remarked that they felt they were discovering tomatoes, grapes, lettuce, eggs
and even meat for the first time, as if just now, after over half a century of
“knowing” the flavors of these foods, they were really tasting them.

We also ate new fruits unknown to us, like chirimoya, granadilla, and snozzberries.

Ok, not snozzberries … “who ever heard of snozzberries?”

How sad, we remarked, that we have to go back to the US
with its flavor-homogenized diet.

And why is it that the food in the US doesn’t come close to
the vibrant lip-smacking delight of strawberries that taste like strawberries?

Food eaten locally in Peru is not produced in industrial
quantities the way that agriculture for export is or food grown in the US. It
is not planted with GMO seeds that are manufactured to resist plagues, have
harder shells, and withstand extreme temperatures. Fields are not smothered in
petroleum-based fertilizers to compensate for lack of natural minerals and
vitamins in the soil which have been leeched due to over-production,
mono-cropping, and lack of rotation and “fallow” land (the practice
of leaving a segment of land unplanted in order for it to recuperate its pH
balance and nitrogen levels). Industrial agriculture overuses land to the point
where plants need external elements to support their growth because soil
nutrients are absent. So the “flavor” is fertilizer.

But in Peru the food is produced for eating, not just for
selling. Land is ripe with nutrients and consciously maintained healthy in
order to pass down to the next generation. That means they are filled with
vitamins, minerals, and healing properties that get lost when the focus is on yield,
export and profit.

Food for export is harvested before being ripe and shipped
in storage containers to the land of US box stores where it is displayed in
styrofoam and plastic wrap, as disconnected from the land as possible. So strawberries with a sticker from Peru will not taste the same as strawberries bought at a
local market in Peru.

But we buy it. We buy the whole story: still-green tomatoes,
peeled, sliced and packaged carrots, boxed meals and canned vegetables. Because
its easier to pay $50 for groceries than to scrub and peel potatoes or even
harder, consider the impact of our purchase on the health of the land or our

I think if we actually knew what food was supposed to taste
like, that is the flavor of Mother Nature and not of Monsanto, we would start
to demand higher quality food. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to handle it: our
senses have become de-sensitized to the point where blandness is banal. And a strawberry
is just a strawberry, after all, right?

When we eat, we should use all of our senses. And have faith
that Mother Nature knows best what a strawberry should taste like.

I think with some creativity, we can bring around this change. After all, as Willy Wonka says, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”