In defense of the holiday fruit basket

Illustration for article titled In defense of the holiday fruit basket
Photo: DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI (Getty Images)

Fruit baskets come in for a lot of ridicule this time of year. Mostly because in general we tend to forget they exist until December comes and we realize we have to buy holiday presents for people we don’t really know all that well but to whom we must convey respect, or at least professional appreciation. And then we keep stumbling across all the gift-giving landmines. Maybe the gift recipient doesn’t drink. Maybe they don’t eat gluten. Maybe you’re not into baking 5,000 cookies. Maybe you think gift cards are tacky. Maybe they think gift cards are tacky. The fruit basket is the easiest, least controversial option. It’s not tied to any particular holiday or religious practice. And what adult is willing to admit that they don’t eat healthy, nutritious fruit? But that lack of adventure and imagination is what makes them so easy to mock. They’re old-fashioned. They’re fusty. No one will think you’re cool. They imply self-improvement instead of decadence. They’re what your grandma would send. And blah blah blah.

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No one has ever sent me a fruit basket personally. Or any kind of basket, actually, though I’ve received snack bags at weddings, and I appreciated them a lot. But I have inherited several fruit baskets from my parents, and they’ve made me very happy. Specifically, these were baskets of Harry & David Royal Riviera pears. (Technically they were boxes, but whatever. Who actually uses a basket these days anyway?) Those are the big, soft pears you allegedly can eat with a spoon, though I was just happy to bite into them like the peasant that I am. When I got tired of eating them, I baked with them and discovered a whole new appreciation for pears as a raw ingredient. I made pear pie. I made pear gingerbread. I made caramelized pear oatmeal. I made pear scones and pear bread. (Two dozen pears may have been a bit excessive, but in fairness, it was two boxes sent to my parents by two separate people.) Anyway, that’s what a gift is: a small luxury—or maybe a chance to experiment with something new—that someone would never buy for herself.

And yes, okay, it’s old-fashioned to think of fruit as a luxury. But that’s also part of the charm of the fruit basket. Think about what distinguishes a Royal Riviera from a hard, unripe, out-of-season Anjou or Bosc in your supermarket. Or a honeybell, a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit and the sweetest, juiciest, and rarest of all Florida citrus, from a plain old navel orange. A fruit basket is a collection of items from regular life elevated and improved. How can anybody not appreciate that—or find a receptive relative or friend to regift it to?

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

boatmamacita
boatmamacita

One part of Chinese New Year is everyone giving you mandarin oranges and pomelo so you get a backlog of citrus. Sometimes a tiny tree with tiny oranges on it! But mostly we end up with boxes stacked in our hallway and fortify with vitamin C for February. If the gifter is really wanting to impress, there will also be the taste nothing fruits like dragonfruit and starfruit.