Editor's Column: More luxury wishes for Christmas

All I want for Christmas are things I can’t afford, like fruits and vegetables.

Prices are so high that sometimes I buy one fruit or vegetable at a time, as if they were pieces of jewelry or meat. Take, for example, a Pink Lady apple that looked tempting in its pyramid-shaped pile at Safeway. This particular apple went for $1.59 a pound, which I thought was exorbitant, but it was only about 20 cents a pound cheaper than the regular Delicious, Fuji or Braeburn varieties, which the growers could combine into one under the “Mushy” label. I was looking for something “tangy, tart and titillating,” which is how I’d seen the Pink Lady described in an advertisement.

Like all apples these days, the Pink Lady was also “big.” That’s what we get for willingly paying by the pound for fruit in these days of genetic engineering. Growers breed the biggest with the biggest, so we pay more at the scale. We now have apricots the size of peaches, peaches the size of grapefruit, grapefruit the size of watermelons and watermelons that can be hollowed out and used as a garage. This particular Pink Lady tipped the scale at just over a pound, bringing the total to $1.79 for a single apple. This was more than 17 times the cost of the enormous apples that the nice lady at Fobes Grocery vainly tried to get kids to buy instead of candy when I was growing up, but I decided to pay the price. I was desperate for a tangy, tart, titillating apple.

Trouble was, I couldn’t bring myself to eat an apple costing $1.79 unless it was a special occasion, like one calling for caviar and champagne. Such an occasion never arose, so my Pink Lady started shriveling up on me. I finally tossed it away after taking one mushy bite.

This experience didn’t deter me from paying $3.98 a pound last week for tomatoes. Or I should say tomato, as that’s all I could afford. Even at that, I had to go for the littlest Roma tomato I could find. Romas are bred for their tough skins, so they’re as good as new even after the tomato container from Mexico splits open on the docks, a forklift runs over the tomatoes and then a steam shovel scoops it into the back of a truck, no discernible damage done. The smallest Roma I could find weighed 0.18 pound, and cost 72 cents. This little tomato was used in five large burritos in a food sharing exercise rivaling the biblical loaves and fishes.

Fruits and vegetables are now in the luxury category with the other things that one dreams of receiving for Christmas. Santa, put me down for a dozen Pink Ladies and a box of ripe hothouse tomatoes. If this is too much to ask, I’ll take a Lexus instead.

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