Thursday, June 3, 2010


The following piece of whimsy has absolutely nothing to do with my trip. It is provided purely for amusement and/or consternation. It is a short rant of mine from last summer's Iowa Summer Writing Festival, composed during a "fast-writing" exercise. I was reminded of it during a conversation with a monk here at Sant' Anselmo about the curious (to me) universal practice of placing stickers on fruit. It led to the observation that here in Europe, people peel and pare fruit before eating it. It is not eaten out of hand, skin and all, so there's no need to remove the sticker.

Peeling fruit is just one of many differences in daily life to be experienced in Europe (at least in Itay), such as:

-- Coffee. You drink it from a bowl if it's weak, and from something resembling a shot glass if it's strong.

-- Breakfast. It is likely to include cold cuts and cereal with chocolate chips.

-- Afternoons. If you need to conduct business between noon and 3 p.m., good luck. Many places--even tourist shops--close for siesta.

-- Dinner. Eaten around 8 p.m., at the earliest.

-- Toilets. They may or may not have seats.

-- Weddings (this pertains to Italy). Here, I am told, Catholics are more likely to affiliate themselves with movements rather than parishes. Consequently, people get married wherever they like. Since Rome is filled with beautiful, old churches, if you walk down a street on any particular day, chances are you'll encounter a wedding. I must have seen two dozen of them in my week here in Rome. Big groups of people milling about, all dressed up, taking pictures, etc. It almost seems as though people drive around until they see a church, and say, "Hey, let's stop and have a wedding!"

Anyway, enough of that. My rant on fruit stickers, which (hopefully) provides some food for thought about the struggle to live in the sacrament of the present moment:

Why is there a sticker on my apple? It is so annoying. I wonder whose idea it was to begin putting those little white stickers on each individual piece of fruit?

It gets in the way and irritates me to no end.

They all have them now--have you ever noticed? Oranges and bananas. But those aren’t the worst. Especially irritating are those you want to eat out of hand, skin and all--apples, pears, especially peaches.

I reach my hand into the fruit bin, and before I can take a bite, I have to stop and peel the thing off. And it’s never easy. My fingernail attempts to dig in between the sticker and skin of the fruit, but it won’t lift off! It seems like I spend five minutes with it, working all the angles. There’s a little arrow on one tip, but that, it seems, is just there to toy with you.

It won’t come off! So I flip it back into the bin and grab another. Same thing. OK, last one. This time, I really scrape at it, taking off part of the skin. Is this really necessary? And there’s this gluey film left behind. Is that even safe to consume? What is it? And it won’t wash off under the faucet--it just becomes gummier. So I grab a knife and carve it out, which I should have done from the beginning.

It’s maddening. There’s no point to it. It’s not like they contain essential or useful information. Believe me, I’ve checked. Braeburn, Red Delicious. Dole. USA. Some 4-digit number. Produce of New Zealand. Who cares?

Someone told me it’s for the cashier at checkout time. Well, he or she doesn’t have to eat it--I’m the one who bought the thing!

And not only does this annoy me to no end, but I have to tell everyone about it when I finally sit down at the table with everyone else. I’m still polishing, rubbing, caressing, examining, and I proclaim to anyone and everyone: “Whoever came up with the idea of putting stickers on each piece of fruit should be put away. If God thought they needed stickers, he would have put them on himself.”

No one laughs, or agrees, really, although they aren’t exactly being indifferent. It’s just something that has to be allowed to get out of the way before we all sit down to eat and talk about our days. Just like a sticker. It’s something in the way that needs to be taken care of before we can do what we really want to do.

Perhaps that’s why it bothers me so much. Because it’s there, and I don’t want it to be. It’s in the way.

I wonder now, though, whether it’s really in the way, or if I let it get in the way. It’s just a sticker, and yet it bugs me, sticks me this way and that. I can’t enjoy the fruit until it’s out of the way, but once it is, all I talk about is having had to remove the thing.

So who is in the way, the sticker or me? Is there a difference really?

I wonder now, how often I get in the way of myself instead of simply enjoying the fruit.

I mean really. It’s a sticker.

1 comment:

Br. Bernard Delcourt, OHC said...

You had me wondering; so I had to Google it, of course. Here's the most helpful entry I found:

Talking Fruit
How to de-code the information on those little stickers

Bon app├ętit!

Br. Bernard, OHC