One of my favorite additions to Little Rock’s shopping scene in the past year or so has been Natural Grocers over on Rodney Parham. I’ve found the place to be a relatively cheaper alternative to Whole Foods when I need a grass-fed beef and kombucha fix. But even at a store like that, the produce section is full of perfectly round, perfectly symmetrical fruits and vegetables. It’s a scene that plays out at any supermarket—it’s like buying apples and carrots from a J. Crew catalog.
Even at the farmers market, it’s obvious that farmers are putting out their most shapely food for sell. And the reason? Well. It’s because we’re all a bunch of picky people who don’t want to eat weird-shaped food. But nature doesn’t really work like that. It’s always been a pleasure to see someone try an heirloom tomato for the first time. They look at the cracked top and odd mottled color and say “Oh, no, that couldn’t possibly taste good.” Then the first bite is had and a realization sets in: THIS is what a tomato should taste like!
Many of our local growers sell their less-than-lovely produce to restaurants and artisans who turn those ugly-but-delicious foods into things like salsa or tomato sauce. But for the big boy growers, a lot of that imperfect food just gets trashed. And with food insecurity being a major issue worldwide (and in our own Arkansas backyard) that seems really, well, dumb and wasteful.
The folks at Hasbro think so, too, and they’ve decided that indoctrinating your children is the best way to fight food waste. To this end, they’ve released a misshapen Mr. Potatohead edition — although to me, it still looks like a pretty symmetrical tater. But it’s the thought that counts, I suppose. The melty-faced toy was developed with UK grocery chain ASDA, and is available from eBay for a current bid of £82.00, which is god-knows-what in dollars given the fluctuation of British currency. Proceeds will go to charity.
Of course, you could just use that sort of bread to buy ugly fruit and veg for yourself and support a local farm. Props to Hasbro and ASDA for this attempt, but it’s going to take more than a toy to change a buying public used to those J. Crew model taters and maters.