By my bedside at any given time, I have two or three books on rotation. Currently one of those books is Russ Parsons’ How to Pick a Peach. The main idea is simple, but often overlooked: good food comes from good ingredients. In today’s world, how many of us know to store an onion, or a potato, a peach, or a pear? Do we know when fruits ripen, or even when they are in season? Can we tell when they are not, now that strawberries are always a bold, eye-popping red and peaches always a fuzzy pink? And even if the ingredient is good, which variety of pear is the best? Do we know how to core that pear? Poach it?
A practical guide to buying and cooking produce, revealing both the art and science of cooking, is what Parsons has written. And in light of Tu b’Shvat last week, the topic is natural, and easy, as we wind down. With the Jewish Arbor Day having coming and gone. I want to suggest that the holiday continue. In looking at what makes good cooking, we need to look at both the ingredients in order to understand the various ways to choose, store, and prepare them, as well as the issues that surround produce in today’s markets.