Drive-By Fruiting

My mom came to visit this weekend and she brought with her:

  • Several pounds of grapes
  • 2 pints of blackberries
  • 3 pounds of strawberries
  • One dozen mangoes
  • Two dozen bananas
  • And about 10 lbs of apples

This sounds like some kind of repetitive children’s song or game (…I’m going to the picnic and I’m bringing purple pineapples…and a partridge in a pear tree) but this drive-by fruiting was all too real.

Whence this unseasonal bounty? My dad is a commercial photographer, which, for the family, means your stuff may disappear at any time–kitchen knives and teddy bears alike called into duty on set–but also that unexpected windfalls of unused (or unusable) product will come your way.

Un-returnable clothes. A lifetime supply of sour punch straws (remember those?). A brand new mattress. A CD player shaped like a can of Coke.  A puppy abandoned behind a set. If I ever had something out of the ordinary (like at age 11 a series of posters featuring a Humphrey Bogart lookalike, advertising Gordon’s gin) or a large quantity of any one thing (like 50 pounds of that cheap, tooth-cracking powdery pink bubble gum) you could pretty much guarantee, “It came from a shoot.”

Life isn’t all sour punch straws and bubble gum, though. Food shots, in particular, mean lots and lots and lots of waste and unused product. You have to buy waaaay more food than will ever be in the shot. This is because professionals will go through an entire box of cornflakes and select each each flake by hand. It is amazing to watch a food stylist (yes that is a real thing) work, though most of the food they touch is rendered inedible by their craft: whole chickens browned by blowtorch on the outside to a perfect golden crisp, but raw on the inside.

Of the food that isn’t destroyed, a lot is left over that can’t be returned or re-sold. My dad has been known to chuck dozens of stale bagels and chunks of fossilized Italian bread out into the snow for the squirrels (leading to a disturbing encounter one morning when I left the house without bread in hand, and found all the squirrels watching me).

Last week, the client was a snack product with animated fruit mascots (“It will be like Mr. Fruit-ato head,” my dad says). The shoot involved purchasing a ton of every kind of fruit, selecting a perfect specimen of each, and photographing it from every conceivable angle, so the images can later be animated. The 20 pounds or so of fruit that my mom brought us was apparently about a quarter of what he bought for the job.

Here’s the rub: I don’t even like fruit all that much. I can’t handle anything with a mushy, slimy, or mealy texture, or a strong fruity smell. I’m mostly ok with berries and picky about apples. Bananas and mangoes are right out. I couldn’t imagine what we were going to do with all this stuff, and in the meantime, overwhelming smells that left me queasy were wafting from my kitchen. Did I mention I do not do bananas?

So what have we done with all this fruit? I’m pleasantly surprised to say that we’re making good use of almost every piece, or putting it in the hands of people who will. Here’s our disposition schedule so far:

  • One cobbler took out a pound of strawberries, 2 pints of blackberries and a few apples
  • One apple crisp with another to come later this week will take care of the rest of the apples (and we ate one or two)
  • One container of strawberries was already bad and had to be tossed. The last one went to friends.
  • We each took a bag of mangoes to work where, for some reason, people absolutely pounced on them. I don’t really understand why, since you can just buy a mango at the store if you want it, but apparently people go bananas for free mangoes.
  • About 14 bananas went to our friends whose 6-month-old won’t eat anything else. Sam will eat the rest.
  • Grapes are in the fridge. We can’t forget about these!

I hate feeling ungrateful about such a gift, and I hate to see it wasted, so I’m glad we’ve been able to find a use or a user for all of it.


4 thoughts on “Drive-By Fruiting

  1. A fascinating read. We don’t have squirrels here in New Zealand, but I’d never have guessed they have a soft spot for bagels.

    I would have pounced on your free mangoes too. Around here, they are quite expensive. If I had any fruit left, I would have blended them and drunk them. If you don’t feel like being healthy, you could add some sugar, booze and serve them with ice or pop them into popsicle containers?

    • Thanks for reading, and for your comment! The squirrels around here will eat just about anything.

      I meant to check out the mangoes at the store last night to see how expensive they are in winter in the midwest, but I forgot.

      Great ideas for using up the rest of our stash!

    • I wish I could “like” this. Next time we have a fruit windfall, let’s meet in the middle somewhere (Iowa?) for a fruit handoff. I’m sure the free fruit would totally offset the cost of the journey….

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