I had one of those “back in my day” moments the other week while shopping for fruit & veg. I found myself in front of a strange melon, a kind I had never seen before. I can’t remember its name, and it wasn’t there the following week.
But this melon got me thinking. How many other mysterious items were here at the greengrocer that I’d never seen, or at least never tried? And that got me thinking even more – how many new varieties of this, that and the other are now at the ready that I couldn’t have imagined in our local fruit shop back in my childhood?
I remember times in my childhood when my brothers and I went with Mum to our local shops. Mum would send us kids into the fruit shop with her handwritten list. The greengrocer handpicked the items out for us, packed them into a box and carried the box to the car, leaving Mum to sweep in and pay after she had finished the rest of her shopping. Those trips sometimes took a little longer than they otherwise would have if Mum didn’t have her socialising super power, which put her at the hub of many community connections. Happy memories!
Those were the days when one avocado was an exotic special treat and a substantial enough thank you gift for a helpful neighbour. Lettuce meant iceberg lettuce, whereas now it could be one of the 5 or 6 varieties I can count at the shops without even trying.
As well as all that lettuce, how many fancy and interesting varieties of mushrooms are there now? And the melons – although my special melon remains a mystery, I saw regular watermelon, yellow watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew melon on that shopping trip.
Even with a pretty conservative approach to my fruit and vegetable shopping, my trip to Tom’s Superfruits Super Store at the Belconnen Fresh Food Markets gave me this bounty:
With such variety of produce these days, does it change the way we cook? I think so. I would definitely use a fresh approach with the dishes that were regular features on our family table growing up:
- Imagine a fresh take on potato bake using different coloured sweet potato (try white, purple and gold), garlic and red onion, chicken stock, a little butter, seasoning and some fresh thyme leaves. If you are feeling adventurous, look closely at the spices section of the greengrocer to find sumac, a sweet and tangy bonus feature on potato dishes.
- Fruit salad – instead of classic cubes of predictable fruits, why not make the most of all that melon? Sprinkle with finely chopped fresh mint.
- Perhaps my favourite would be a new take on quiche and salad. Back in my day, it was a slab of quiche and a side salad of iceberg lettuce, a few slices of tomato and some tinned pineapple. Now, I would turn it into a Japanese style omelette (loosely based on my recipe here) with fancy mushrooms and a salad with sesame dressing.
Don’t forget, a fresh approach needs to factor in how the food looks on the plate. When I was young no one talked about “plating up” their dinner, and no one sprinkled their dish with microgreens (actually, I doubt many do in daily life now either, but for a garnish on a special occasion, microgreens are so cute!).
Next time you’re at the greengrocer, have a good look around. Anything new? Any interesting fruits or vegetables you haven’t tried? It might be time to remember the dishes you enjoyed growing up and see if you too can make the most of the modern greengrocer to bring a fresh approach to those classic dishes.
Vintage greengrocer image from Pixabay used under CCO licence