Fruity fruit

In the fascinating world of international travel, I bring you the story of fruit.

Foreign food is different, not just because each culture and country has its own way of seasoning, cooking and serving food, but because the food itself will be different. It is the same principle as in wine, which is said to absorb its  unique flavours from the region in which the grapes grow.

And so, B.C. blueberries differ from Ontario’s (Ontario wild blueberries are better, sorry B.C.), Manitoba eggs taste nothing like those in Madrid, and so on.

Flavour matters to me. I love food. Who would have known it? But, I’m also very particular and so feel some trauma at leaving behind Canada with its fabulous wild blueberries, incredible sweet Silver Rill corn, unbeatable Alberta beef tenderloin and affordable salmon.

Here, everything tastes different. It’s not all bad. Despite my love for the flavours I grew up with in Canada, I have to admit that Switzerland’s store-bought strawberries leave North American franchise grocery offerings in the dust.

When it comes to Canada’s Bartlett pears, I am in heaven, but guess what. There are no Barletts in Switzerland, which has set me on a path of discovery.

I’ll just cut to the chase. Bartlett-lovers should head for Harrow Birnen Sweet, which comes from the same family as Bartlett and has almost exactly the same sugary texture and flavour. Buy it. You will be happy. Happier still, it is a late-season pear, so it was available in our stores until last week. Today, I ate the last one. Sadness descends.

In searching for a replacement, I also tested Italy’s one-pound “Abate” pear and Portugal’s 6 oz. “Rocha” pear. The Rocha is an acceptable Harrow/Bartlett replacement, but it is only 1/7th the pear in flavour, so adjust your standards accordingly. Italy, who has romanced the world with its fabulous eats, falls down on its face with Abate. It is literally a pound in weight, as my new digital scale confirms, and tastes something like an apple, but without the flavour. It costs about $2 a pear, hardly worth it.

How do I know? Despite the $2 investment, I chucked it in the garbage. I am really cheap. Chucking fruit after a single bite is the ultimate insult. Pear-growers in Italy probably felt a disturbance in the force.

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