Friday, November 08, 2013

Fruits, vegetables and names

click photo to enlarge
A shopping trip to Stamford found us in the market buying buying a couple of items. Whilst my wife made the purchases I headed over to a stall selling fruit and vegetables, attracted by the bright colours and the arrangement of the produce in stainless steel bowls.

As I looked at what was for sale I was somewhat envious of the flawless quality of each item. Though we have grown items of produce that equal the standard on display, we do end up with quite a few less than perfect pieces. I comforted myself with the thought that such perfection comes at a price, often in terms of taste, and commonly with regard to the environment. "Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees, please", as Joni Mitchell put it. Moreover, the distorted and deformed examples that we grow and happily eat never make it to the market stall but are separated out to be used in sauces and prepared foods.

A further thought came to my mind as I looked at the peppers and aubergines (and potatoes) shown in the photograph. Though they are undoubtedly fruit, biologically speaking, they are often - at least in the UK - regarded as vegetables (and called such) because of the way they are used with savoury rather than sweet dishes. Moreover, we are somewhat confused in these islands by the English name(s) that we call the sweet Capsicum annuum. Most commonly they are peppers. However, that causes misunderstanding because chili peppers are often called by this name too. Capsicum was used more commonly in the past but seems to have fallen out of use. That name was specific and gave rise, as far as I know, to no misunderstanding. Sweet pepper is also commonly used, probably as a deliberate attempt to prevent the confusion with chili peppers noted above. It's not one of the most problematic linguistic quandaries, but precision in names is helpful and it would be convenient if we settled on one explicit name and used it to the exclusion of all others. However, in a country that perversely uses both the metric and the imperial system for measurement, I'm afraid there's absolutely no chance of that!

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14.2mm (38mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On