One of the very first jobs I ever held was as a produce clerk in Memphis, Tennessee. The owner was a real jerk who took great pride in treating his employees like rags.
You’d be working away, and he would walk by, stop alongside you, reach over and take ahold of the white produce apron we were all required to wear, wipe his hands on it, and then walk away, without ever once even looking you in the eye. Just to let you know in what regard he held you as an employee.
But there was one serious perk that came with the job: you could pretty much get away with snacking on grapes to your heart’s and stomach’s content as you went in and out of the big walk-in coolers in which much of the fresh produce was stored. And on a hot, sweltering southern summer day, those near-ice-cold grapes were an incredibly refreshing treat. It left me with a lifelong love of fresh, cold, green grapes.
So imagine my dismay when I moved to San Francisco in 1979 and discovered that there was a long-standing boycott on grapes! Here I am in the fruit basket of the world, and being asked to abstain from my favorite fruit.
I’d seen enough, however, of how employers could mistreat and dehumanize their workers. I didn’t buy a grape for all those years until Cesar Chavez’s boycott won out, and the boycott was lifted.
And grapes never tasted as good as they did when eaten, after years of abstinence, in celebration of having helped to win a good-cause fight for the laborers whose sweat and toil brought them to my table.