I discovered today that, after twenty-eight years of doing business in Mile End, the gloriously ramshackle Harji’s fruit shop is no more. Worse, the shop has been purchased by individuals who have elected to rename it “Fruit Balance Santé.” For those among you who don’t speak a whit of French, the word “santé” means “health,” which is the subject of today’s screed.
Why does fruit have to be marketed as “healthy”? It is, no doubt, but is this its defining characteristic? Is healthfulness the singular essence of fruit? Judging from the explosion of organic produce retailers and juice bars in this once proudly unhealthy neighbourhood, it would seem that it is.
The pursuit of health has become the driving obsession of our time, one that threatens to displace all other human motives and values. Indeed, the will to health has so colonized our collective understanding of pleasure that we have come to think of jogging as a leisure activity, and drinking as a form of cardio-vascular therapy. Even sex, that ancient repository of vice and disease, has been reconstituted as an anti-aging strategy and a barometer of psychological well-being. (Hey, is that a colonoscope in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?)
Does absolutely everything have to be good for us? Have we become incapable of experiencing enjoyment unless it is by medical prescription?
Frankly, I don’t eat fruit because it’s healthy. I eat fruit because, when it is in season, it tastes good. And because it smells nice. And because a ripe peach is quite possibly the most erotic thing in the world. That is to say, I enjoy eating fruit for its own sake, and even more so when it’s drenched in cream or lazily floating in a pitcher of sangria. Mmm.
Thanks, then, to Mr. and Mrs. Harji, for selling us fruit that possessed no greater aspiration than to taste good. You will be missed.