"I am going to turn over a new life and am going to be a very
good girl and be obedient..., here there is planty of goosaberys which
makes my teeth water."
Many, indeed some who should have known better, have suggested that kiwifruit
were the first seriously surreal fruit, but for all their dream-like qualities,
and the psychic colour of their flesh, their nihilism reveals them as nothing
if not pure Dada. That acknowledged, the recent introduction of yellow-fleshed
kiwifruit is a sure sign that this particular activism continues in the face
of the original fruit's acceptance by the culinary status quo.
Central to kiwifruit's challenge to the culinary nationalism rampant in the Americas,
Europe and the East, is its name, which cleverly hides the true origins of the
fruit behind its multifarious identities, while clearly establishing its Dada
credo. As with art, where the title holds so much of the artist's intentions,
so the name kiwifruit conveys a sense of the confusion intended by its widespread
Kiwifruit already had a colonial name. In New Zealand, where it had been transplanted
after appropriation from China, it was known, rather simplistically, as the Chinese
gooseberry. Imported to the South Pacific for the purpose of providing Romantic
naturalistic canopies to the many outhouses, barns and garden sheds which despoiled
the otherwise idyllic scenery of the countryside, its culinary properties were
unknown, other than through remembered tastes from the local tradition of childhood
pilfering of fruit from neighbours. As it is expected of children that they steal
unripe fruit, 'green' in the local patois, and as only apples, peaches, oranges
and pears were considered appropriate raw fruit in the somewhat constricted adult
New Zealand cuisine of the time, so Chinese gooseberries were classified by their
colour alone to be perfectly suited to the annual child-theft ritual.
However, this name was only suitable as long as the Chinese gooseberry was a
localised cultural phenomenon, with no presence in any sophisticated culinary
culture. The decision to send the furry brown berries out as a challenge to the
sensitivities of the world's cultural elite, however well founded in its bizarre
texture, (c.f. Meret Oppenheim, Object, 1936), or in the moral challenge
of its frankly tart colouring, demanded a new name. Chinese gooseberry would
have undermined the determined internationalism of the project in the name of
one of the great Imperialist powers, whose culinary colonialism is apparent in
every corner of the globe, in Paris as much as it is in Milwaulkee. Indeed, China's
ubiquitous cuisine infiltrates even the most primitive food communities, undermining
classic regional dishes like rice pudding with ruthless attrition.
So Chinese gooseberry had to go, and in conjuring kiwifruit the project's success
was assured. It is a name which challenges through the pure Dada of its nonsense.
Throughout North America and Britain, the once and future Imperial giants of
world society, Kiwi is the brown, waxy substance with which males polish their
shoes. How perfect that a fruit intended to become the epitome of refined culinary
fashion should be named after boot polish.
In Europe, the understanding of the word kiwi, or rather lack of it, is even
closer to original Dada's reference to the meaningless child language of babies.
Within the basic sounds of many languages ki wi is as likely to come from an
infant as is da da. Although it does have less resonance than da da as a reference
to the patronage of government, it does replicate the high pitched, senseless
chatter of the cocktail party, so it could be seen as a similar phonetic emblem.
So successful has the name become that the shortened version, kiwi, is now the
name of the fruit in most of the world. Prawn soufflé with kiwi is no
longer a restaurant dish that terrifies unwitting conservationists in Hamburg,
nor do kiwi farmers in southern Italy spend large sums on poultry food.
Given the extent to which kiwifruit was made its point, it is no surprise that
the newly released version of kiwifruit has no name. Much has already been written
about its favourable, red berry-like flavour and its capacity to stimulate sexual
appetites, but this is mere culinary decoration to the true intent of the international
activists who made the world's chefs fawn in the face of their bright green food,
much as Marcel Duchamp brought galleries to their knees with Monsieur Mutt's
That intent will be known only when the name is announced, if it ever is, for
no name at all is a logical extension of the Dada non-theory. Nonsense from the
mouth of a child can only be superseded by silence from the not-yet mouth of
the unborn. In the age of lifestyle abortion, surely this is the perfect title
for a strangely yellow fruit that is smooth where it should have been hairy?