“You can take apples right out of these boxes”

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song (http://www.ruthsilbermayrsong.com)

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song (http://www.ruthsilbermayrsong.com)

One day in November 2013, I’m at the supermarket buying fruit. I go to a square counter that is filled with apples. It’s accessible from all four sides. On the opposite side of the counter, a supermarket employee who’s busy unpacking boxes is surrounded by people.

A couple standing right next to me point their finger to him. They point there without saying a word, supposedly thinking that I don’t understand Mandarin Chinese. When I ask them what exactly it is they are trying to tell me, they explain:

“You can take apples right out of these boxes.”
I: “But I can also take the apples from here, can’t I?”
Couple: “Of course you can, but the ones in the boxes are fresh.”

Finally I understand. I wait until the guy has unloaded the apples and go over to take some of the fresh apples, just like anyone else.

Have you ever had a similar experience? I’d love to read your stories.

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7 thoughts on ““You can take apples right out of these boxes”

  1. Sometimes in the supermarket near my home in the United States the person unpacking the fruit will invite me to take some from the box. The fresher the food is, the better it tastes. When we lived in the South Pacific, we used to grow small cherry tomatoes. They tasted so sweet when we ate them immediately after picking them.

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  2. ever since my girlfriend’s favorite fruit vendor shut down we’re ordering fruit from Taobao. This is always good for discussion. Yes, it is convenient. On the other hand fruit is such an essential and cheap food, do you really have to order it via the internet?? And have some guy especially deliver it to your doorstep, in specially designed cardboard boxes? (*) And it’s not like we’re ordering truckloads of fruit. They even let you order really small and uneconomic quantities. We haven’t tried ordering single strawberries yet, but somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if that too works.

    (*) Chinese seem to love boxed fruit. Sometimes you see the “gift packaged” fruit, usually if it’s some sort of local specialty, that comes in a nice box with colorful print and a small plastic handle to carry it. (they also sell live crab that way, which is rather disturbing)

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    • Maybe the fruits you’re ordering online are meant to be given away as gifts? That’s what the fruits sound like from your description, coming in a nice box and stuff (it’s very common to give fruits as a gift, eg. if you’re invited for dinner at someone’s place or as a small gift for someone who’s sick).

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      • I don’t think so. While they come in a fairly nice box – it’s not as simple as a crate though! – the boxes ain’t fancy enough for gifting. It’s like the fruit is nicely enough packaged to be FedExed though. If I would ever FedEx fruit (no idea why I would do this?) then I would surely package it like that too 🙂

        I just feel bad because of all the waste it generates, but apparently ordering fruit isn’t more expensive than heading to the supermarket.

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  3. I don’t like buying fruits and veggies at the supermarket. The quality varies widely, and they always pick out the “best” ones, wrap them up, and mark up the price. I used to always buy from the local street market only. But where we now live in Shenzhen, there is no veggie market close to my home. It is one of the biggest things I miss about Changsha.

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    • I agree, it’s often easier to find fresh fruits at local markets (or fruit vendors). Luckily, we do have quite a few markets not too far from our apartment, but some are really hard to find (my mother-in-law is great at discovering local markets and she was the one who introduced 2 other local markets to us). Have you ever tried asking other residents about markets close-by? Maybe there’s a market hidden somewhere you don’t know yet about.

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  4. Pingback: “You can take apples right out of these boxes” | Shenzhen Writers Circle

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