A lady in Virginia was arrested and found guilty of eating two strawberries in a supermarket. It was a national story, and many people thought the arrest was outrageous. That is because they didn't know what the stores are getting for strawberries this summer.
The price of fruit is out of sight. I discovered this the other day when I took my wife to Neam's Market to buy her an anniversary present. We went to the fruit and vegetable department. But first we had to ring the bell before the guard opened the steel door.
"We're interested in fruit," we told him.
We were ushered into a carpeted room where Mr. Neam himself came out and sat behind his Louis XIV desk. We were asked to be seated across from him.
"Can I be of service?" he asked.
"We were looking for something in fruit for our 25th anniversary," I said.
Mr. Neam snapped his fingers and an assistant brought out a tray of strawberries.
"I have a matched pair that just arrived," he said, holding two of the most beautiful strawberries I have ever seen.
My wife's eyes glowed.
"How much are they?"
"With or without the sugar?" he wanted to know.
"With the sugar."
He wrote down the price on a piece of paper.
I gulped. "Do you have anything else?"
He snapped his fingers again and the assistant brought out another tray.
"These are pears shaped like diamonds," he said. "Note the luster of the skin when I hold it up to the light. Elizabeth Taylor had one of these for breakfast when her husband John Warner was running in the primary."
I could see my wife's mouth watering. "I don't think we're in Elizabeth Taylor's class," she said.
"Consider this diamond-shape pear an investment. In three days when it's ripe it will be worth three times what you paid for it."
We both shook our heads. Mr. Neam, who is to fresh fruit what Bulgari's is to jewelry, was very polite.
He snapped his fingers and the assistant took away the tray of pears and brought a tray of peaches each sitting on its own piece of cotton.
"One of these would go lovely with your wife's complexion," he said. "There are only 11 on this tray. Sophia Loren bought one when she was in town a few weeks ago. When these are gone, there won't be any more. As you can see, our designer has made it possible to either eat one as is, or cut it up into small pieces and add sweet cream."
He wrote down the price on a slip of paper.
There was no way I could afford it.
"We were hoping," I said, "for something that would take up more room in our Waterford fruit bowl."
"I have just the thing," said Mr. Neam, still smiling. He snapped his fingers and the assistant brought out a tray of bananas.
The are still green, but Mr. Neam explained the green ones had the most value because in time they would turn yellow.
My wife picked one up, and I knew from the way she held it that this was what she wanted. "What the heck." I thought. "A 25 anniversary only comes once in a lifetime."
I wrote out the check and they put the banana in a lined box.
Mr. Neam locked the safe and then escorted us to the door. "Come back next week," he said. "We're having an exhibition or rare raspberries loaned to us by the Mellon family who grow them on their farm in Middleburg."