The Connection Between Meg Ryan Films and Locally Grown Strawberries

I don’t just love strawberries; I love them, love them, LOVE THEM! Never, until recently, did I think I would feel this way about this ubiquitous berry. Never, until recently, had I eaten a strawberry for any other reason than their nutritional value. (I’d throw them in a smoothie and suck them down in liquid form to simply get it over with.) Never, until recently, did I eagerly accept a strawberry when it was offered to me with an enthusiastic “Have one!”  Never, until recently, did strawberries invoke any passion in me, only obligation in the name of my own heath and well being, and in the desire to be polite and not offend anyone.

But recently my luke-warm feelings about strawberries changed during an impromptu date with a strawberry from a very different place. This strawberry was sort of a distant cousin to the strawberry I had had a unfulfilling relationship with over the years – a nature-vs.-nurture-debate sort of strawberry.

This meeting happened at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. I know, it probably would have been a little more romantic if it happened at the Empire State Building a la “Sleepless in Seattle” or in Riverside Park like in “You’ve Got Mail.” (Hey, two Meg Ryan films! I swear purely coincidental.) But it was at the market where I found myself that day, perusing the wares of the vendors, getting some fresh air, and enjoying a summer day in the Big Apple. (Don’t get me started on apples.) Everywhere, there were strawberries – much to my disappointment.  What was I expecting? They’re in season, right?

But there was something strange about these strawberries; they didn’t look as robust and shiny and in the least bit inviting as their store-bought, California-raised counterparts. No glitz, no glamour. As I stood there contemplating a pint of strawberries, I overheard an exchange between who I later found out was the farmer, and a guy who was obviously a big fan of the berries. The farmer asked him if he wanted a bag, and the guy replied, “No thanks, these will be gone before I get back to my office, which is right around the corner.” Hmmm… I’ll have what he’s having. (Yes, a line from “When Harry Met Sally,” another Meg Ryan movie.)

But it wasn’t until that night that I rediscovered my earlier purchase. And by now, after sitting in a bag all these hours, the strawberries looked even less appealing. I did however, have a brief flashback of the exchange at the market, which nudged me into washing a few off. Then it happened. I took a tiny bite and, WHAM! I have never had such a taste explosion, from a source I usually associated with, well, uneventful. It was sweet and tangy and juicy – such a different flavor, such a different texture -- from what I was used to. I fell in love and contemplated the experience for the rest of the night.

I thought about how, previously, whenever I bought something local, I did so because I believed, in a heady, intellectual sort of way, that it was the right thing to do. I had a basic understanding about the importance of the sustainable food movement, and the farmers whose livelihoods depend upon it. And I got how buying locally reduces our carbon footprint. Also, in my training as a health coach, I learned how eating fresh produce helps our bodies maintain health and balance.

But not until that fateful day in the farmers’ market did my cerebral understanding grow to be more emotional and physical. I noticed the pride that the farmers and food artisans have in their products; I felt the connection that’s established when speaking with the person who has produced the food that feeds you and your family; and I tasted what a strawberry is really supposed to taste like.

And then I realized: it’s all about interdependence! Health, environment, food, community, and ultimately, a bit of happiness. That experience spurred my new-found dedication to purchasing and advocating for locally grown produce. I have joined a CSA and am scheduled to volunteer at a food co-op. And I’m writing about my new-found love, strawberries. Now, when I think of that lucsious, red fruit, I think of a line from another Meg Ryan film, "City of Angels":

"When they ask me what I liked best, I'll say it was you."


Laurie Mann is a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and a holistic health and nutrition coach in New York City. She is a huge fan of dark chocolate, green smoothies, and hot yoga. You can learn more about her at