I recently signed up for a subscription to Misfits Market. It’s a company that ships “ugly produce” to consumers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The purpose of this is to reduce food waste.
You see, what goes into these boxes is produce that does not mean the aesthetic standards of mainstream markets, or produce from harvests that were too small to sell (most stores require a minimum amount of something to stock it). Farmers often have had to let these crops go to waste because they couldn’t sell it, and this is a way to get it to the masses. I have found that most “ugly produce” is no such thing. Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with any of it.
There is great analogy there for our society that I don’t think requires too much explanation. I was a misfit myself my entire life, and still am. But I also think it applies to books. Just because something doesn’t conform to the typical tropes that crowd the best seller lists, doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. An apple that is a little on the small side can be just as sweet and juicy as the standard-sized ones. A squash that is somewhat misshapen can be cooked and enjoyed just as well as a “normal” squash. A book that doesn’t have the typical story lines or relationship paradigms can be just as sumptuous a feast as the latest number one.
Of course, there are books that are duds. Lots and lots of them. Just as there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that are terrible. Sometimes they look gorgeous on the outside, but inside they’re bland, tasteless, and mealy. Sometimes they look so-so on the outside, but you take a chance on them and they turn out to be sweet and juicy, the best [fill in the blank] you’ve ever had. (Hmm, more analogies here.)
Anyway, my point is, I wish more people would take a chance on literature that doesn’t fit their standard views of “good” or “worthy.” I think most people would be pleasantly surprised at what they find. When I open up my Misfits box, I’m always excited to see what I’ve gotten, and when I pull everything out, I think about what I’m going to make with it all. Sometimes I’m so busy that all I can do is a basic cooking session with it. But sometimes I get a little creative. This week, I only had time to saute the eggplant I got, but last week, I used spaghetti squash in my veggie burgers. You never know what you’re going to get when you open up a box of ugly produce, and you never know what you’ll find when you step away from the shelf you usually browse and go one shelf over. Or two, or three. You might be glad you did.