This time, it was oranges. Nathalie Gordon, shopping in a Whole Foods on Thursday, came across an unusual item in the pre-packaged foods section of the store: a series of oranges, encased in plastic boxes, that the store was selling pre-peeled.
She tweeted about her find:
If only nature would find a way to cover these oranges so we didn't need to waste so much plastic on them. pic.twitter.com/00YECaHB4D— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) March 3, 2016
The tweet, unsurprisingly, went viral. There are, after all, so many things to object to here: the excess packaging dedicated to a food that, as Gordon pointed out, already comes nicely pre-packaged by nature. The suggestion that peeling an orange is just so much work. The Marx-would-squirm labor—implied, but unseen—involved for the people who did that work on the behalf of Whole Foods’s patrons. The boxes’ nonsensical MADE RIGHT HERE labels. The Buffalo Bill-y creepiness of the oranges, stripped of their skins, left with only meager bits of pulp to preserve their dignity. The irony that this whole orange-peeling escapade would be enacted by an establishment that is named, uh, “Whole Foods.”
And, you know, on and on. YOU WILL NOT PEEL THEM FOR US, the outraged people cried. WE WILL PEEL THEM OURSELVES. Gordon’s image of the oranges, peeled and packaged and assembled merrily on a refrigerated shelf, hit that foods-of-outrage-culture sweet spot, in precisely the manner of pea guac and asparagus water and collard greens: They are, together, a small thing with big implications—about, in this case, environmental stewardship, about the moral limits of convenience, about wealth and class and privilege. They are easy to get indignant about, especially when there are so many people evidently sharing the indignation.