Delicious Things


Every year, my summers at home in Japan are marked first by cherry season, then peach season, and as the days grow warmer, watermelon season. Back in America, I sometimes find it difficult to express the taste of those Japanese fruits to those who have never tasted them. There is a type of sugar produced in Japan called wasanbon that has an incredibly delicate, gentle flavor; perhaps this sugar comes closest to the taste of the fruit which Japanese farmers work endlessly to grow and harvest each year. Of course I have had good fruit in America too, but I am often disappointed by its commercialized, mass produced nature, in its surface that is polished with wax and displayed in piles, only to turn out bland or bitter.


A couple of days ago, my good friend, Elisa called me to tell me that although peach season was coming to an end in California, a local peach farm that she knew was open for visiting. I happily volunteered to go with her. We left Pasadena and drove for over an hour on the freeway through the typical balding, dry Southern California landscape, finally arriving in the small town of Acton. The owner of the peach orchards, Chris described the farm that he had created, talking about his dedication to sustainable practices and safe, healthy cultivation techniques while still producing the best, most delicious produce possible.

Clean farming and wholesome products were a staple in our childhood, but modern mass production that values money over taste, covering its produce in pesticides is in no way only limited only to fruit. I was reminded of a line from a movie I used to watch with my children, an animated, Japanese film titled, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The protagonist is a young girl trying to save her world from a human race that has poisoned it beyond repair with chemicals, war, and other harmful practices. In the film she says, “The very Earth itself is sick, the soil is dirty.” Talking to Chris, I not only felt the painful reality of Nausicaa’s words, but also the immense urge to support this person who was, in the shadows, fighting so hard to preserve what was left of good farming, good soil, and good practices. Although the peaches I brought home are different from the ones I know in Japan, they taste just as sweet in their own unique way, partly because of how they were grown, but also perhaps because of what they stood for. What tastes good isn’t just a singular, flat thing; delicious things are delicious also because of their story, their process, and what they mean to us.


毎年日本で過ごす夏は、さくらんぼで始まり桃、スイカと続くのですがその甘さをどのようにアメリカで説明したら良いのか困ることがあります。日本には300年近く前から伝わる和三盆という非常に優しい味の砂糖があるのですが、その甘さに似た上品で表に出しゃばらないフルーツの味を求めて日本の農家の方達はどれだけ努力をしていることでしょう。もちろんアメリカのフルーツも好きですが、あまりにも時代の流れに流されたやり方で大量生産され、店頭に山積みにされた色とツヤばかり鮮やかなフルーツには味でがっかりさせられることも少なくありません。

数日前、旬も終わりに近いピーチがまだ手に入る、と教えてくれた友人のエリサと共に桃の農家さんを訪ねるためにパサディナから1時間以上も離れた町へ行きました。はげ山の続くフリーウェイを走り続け行き着いたのはアクトンという町でした。ブルーム農場のオーナー、クリスさんは環境や人間の安全を考えた独自のやり方で、どこにも負けない味の桃を作りたい、と努力を続けるとてもエネルギッシュな人でした。昔は当たり前に地元で取れた安全な農産物が手に入った時代がどんどんと変わり、お金をかけて病気や虫を殺し、見栄えのいいものに生産者が飛びつくのは、決して食生活の世界だけではありません。昔私が子供たちと一緒に見た宮崎駿の映画「風の谷のナウシカ」の中で何度も主人公が言っていた、「土が汚れている」というセリフが取り返しのつかない人間の起こした失敗なのです。その現実に逆らいクリスさんをはじめとする、わずかな勇気ある生産者を私たちはもっとサポートしなくてはいけないと、この訪問でつくづく感じました。小粒でも、堂々と木に実る桃は本当に輝いて見えました。

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