I don’t know how recently this Fresh Fruit Cup trend began, the trend for a side dish to replace the more traditional side dishes like potatoes, fried, baked or otherwise. But I’ve only noticed it lately. Bacon and Eggs stranded and small looking on an enormous plate, a small cup of crescent moon shaped slices of fruit alone on the plate’s upper corner like a satellite hovering in the distance. Even the restaurants serving them haven’t figured out yet that this arrangement of tastes needs to be plated differently. Plating the Fresh Fruit, however, isn’t the only problem.
Back in time, in the Midwest, Fruit Salad would appear on menus sometime in late May. They’d stay there through August and, in a good year, part way into September. On a hot summer day there was no edible better. Of course this was a time when fruit was a seasonal item, only in summer was it commonly available as a reasonable price. These Salads were larges bowls of mixed fruit, rich in color and variety. Deep colors, almost cartoonish colors. Peach halves with a blood red strip where the pit had been ripped away, Honeydew melon an irradiant green paling to a milky white toward where the rind had been knifed off, purple Grapes and Cherries so dark that unless the light hit them directly you’d never know they were red. A honey dressing was a mostly declined possibility. The Fruit Salad, as it was, has disappeared from all but the true Deli menu. It was a delight. It was both Fresh Fruit and Ripe Fruit.
The fruit cup of today is never ripe, colorful or rich in variety. You may get a grape or two that burst with flavor but the primary ingredients, Honeydew melon, Watermelon and Cantaloupe might as well be made of Styrofoam, and, I think, in a few cases when I’ve tried it, it has been, though it has be artfully disguised by some latter day Warhol to resemble the authentic thing . Whenever I see a fruit cup being served I like to glimpse the diner’s face when they take that first bite, I’m curious to see if they might not chip a tooth. More fruit cups end up unfinished or untouched than anything else since parsley. The fruit cup of today reminds me of the writing of Lazlo Toth, though he never wrote about fruit cups. Lazlo Toth is the pen name of comedian Don Novello who wrote The Lazlo Letters, spoof letters he wrote in an earnest voice to corporations and governments. For example, he wrote to the manufacturer to complain that his box of Mr. Bubble instructed him to keep the product dry. How could that be, he wondered? He also wrote to the hotel restaurant chain Howard Johnson’s complaining that they always put a garnish on the corner of the plate that no one ever ate. He suggested they could save money if they simply had the garnish painted onto the plate. Servers of Un-Ripened, Tasteless, Rock-hard Fruit Cups; Are you listening?