Sandra McDonagh
Vegan / writer / blogger

My Fruitarian Era

" Water Melon Sugar High" (Image courtesy of author)

At one point in time, fruit to me was the elixir of life! But it had to be good quality, sweet, juicy and ripe. 

As a child I remember my father buying fruit in abundance, the bulk of it generally bought from one particular grocer in the area. The reason for this, he once explained, was that he was guaranteed by the shop owner that all the fruit was sun-ripened and ready to eat. My father would also fondly regale stories of how his grandmother Dora paid him pocket money to eat his fruit and vegetables when he was a kid.

I don’t remember being paid to eat mine but I clearly recall fragrant clementines still attached to their leaves poking out of brown paper bags and dried bananas in cellophane being housed on the kitchen counter. Weirdly the only fruit dad insisted on eating at its semi-ripe stage were bananas, he liked them firm…
The clementines didn’t last long in our house, devoured with gusto, juice dripping from our chins.

Once a year my maternal grandma would send us a large crate of Jaffa oranges also known as Shamouti from Israel and the scent of those plump sweet citrus fruits would gracefully fill our home for days on end. We never quite managed to eat them all before that mouldy stage set in, there were always a few left at the bottom of the box turning an undignified shade of greyish blue.

My entry into fruitarianism was a by-product of my plant-based eating and vegan lifestyle and fruit very quickly became my love language. I tried to force feed everyone in my vicinity fruit smoothies and smoothie bowls. I cleared out our kitchen cupboards housing staples like chickpeas, rice, pasta and lentils and gave away my pots and pans as gifts. I had embarked on my fruitarian era and nothing and no-one was going to stop me.

My long suffering husband was no longer receiving a hearty warming evening meal but his suppers now consisted of cold mango soup and a variety of leaves. I was a proud fruitarian, punnets of cherries and dates filled my handbag. I spent hours behind my juicer and precious time concocting elaborate fruit salads decorated with edible flowers. When I was dining with family everyone knew I was either going to abstain from eating until I got home or I’d tuck into the stash of fruit in my bag that I would eat whilst the others ate cooked food.

When I was challenged on why I ate this way I could hardly contain my excitement on being able to lecture the person on the benefits of fruits. I was floating around on my natural high brought on by cold pressed apple juice and pomegranates. I stalked fruitarian gurus on YouTube and listened to all that they had to say on the subject. The majority who were transmitting and broadcasting from tropical countries like Bali, Jamaica, Borneo, Costa Rica, Fiji, Saint Lucia and Australia. They were all surrounded by exotic tropical fruits freshly picked from either their homegrown trees or foraged nearby. I on the other hand had trays of supermarket bought unripe fruits desperately trying to win the game of ripening before they rotted stacked around my kitchen, which was also now a fruit fly sanctuary. The smell of ripening bananas permeated the kitchen walls in conjunction with the overripe bananas dripping sticky sap from their rotting fleshy skins (there never seemed to be a happy medium). The smell at times of all the fruit trying to ripen at different stages was honestly like living in the depths of a composting box – not dissimilar to how I imagined Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street’s bin-like dwelling to smell.

Undeterred I continued my fruity lifestyle and started to reap some of the benefits, I shed excess weight and my skin glowed. In the words of my daughter “I looked like I’d swallowed the sun.” My energy levels were high along with my moods and I felt like I had finally found my tribe. I purchased tickets for my husband and I to attend our first ever fruit festival and counted the days until I could meet some of my fruity mentors in person (guest speakers at the festival). It didn’t disappoint and I had an enlightening time listening to lectures and mingling with other like-minded fruit bats from around the globe (some of whom I am still in touch with today).

Sadly, after a while I became jaded with spending large sums of money on tasteless varieties of imported melons which, although looked ripe from the outside, were most definitely not on the inside. My once monogamous love affair with fruit only, was getting harder and harder to sustain. I started to crave warm plant-based foods one cold autumn, and on winter nights, lentil stews, compotes and chickpea curries started to call my name. 

I speak for myself of course and I know there are plenty of fruitarians out there living in colder climes able to sustain the lifestyle. I unfortunately only lasted a couple of years. I still eat a huge amount of fruit and have NOT given up on my homemade smoothies, juices and smoothie bowls but I have given up limiting myself to a way of life that for me was getting harder and harder to sustain. Neither could my bank balance keep up with my cravings for tropical fruit (ordering durian and jackfruit online does not come cheap, a privileged problem for sure!!).

It was time to let go of my “Tangerine” dreams, give up my “Watermelon Sugar Highs” and realise that it wasn’t going to end in “Strawberry Fields Forever”, unless one day  I can join “Club Tropicana”…

Instagram @vegangreatgrandma

About the Author
Hi, I'm Sandra McDonagh (nee Schwarz), and i am a writer. Originally from London, I am now living in Brighton by the sea. Married with three children and vegan for the last twelve years. I have just written my debut book all about my great-grandmother Dora Schwarz, a pioneer and trailblazer of the vegan, vegetarian and raw food diet. Dora Schwarz ran a very successful health sanatorium in Zichron Yaakov, Israel in the 1930s through to the 1960s.
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