Every once in a while, I roll up my sleeves, don my apron, and help make the day’s gift baskets alongside our expert production team: Jackie, Nadine and Lisa. It is one of my favorite things to do at work!
First, I select a gift order ticket and look at who the gift is going to and what the card message says. This gives me a sense of connection to both our customer and their recipient. I feel that I carry the gift’s sentiment with me as I make the gift. The ticket tells me exactly what I need to gather: from the type of basket to the size of the pads we use to protect the fruit during shipping to the sweets and baked goods, dried fruit, cheese, and so on all the way to how many exotic, organic or citrus fruits the gift contains.
I take my time selecting the fruit. I turn each piece of fruit around in my hands as I look for surface imperfections. I have learned to distinguish a naturally-occurring blemish from one caused by shipping and handling. As I assemble the gift from a pick list, I cross off each item on the ticket as I get it. This helps to ensure that I don’t forget anything.
Once all the items in the gift are collected I move onto the assembly area. Here is where I decide how to arrange all the elements. What fruit will sit beside the other? Can I distribute the color in an eye-pleasing way? Will the mango look better turned this way or that? I take my time deciding. Each piece of fruit is nestled into a pillow of recycled paper shred. The finishing touches really pull the gift together: the leaf and flower accents. This week we are using pink heather and lemon leaves. Again, I’m a little slow in choosing where to place them. I want them angled in just the right positions. I like to imagine the recipient opening the basket lid and looking at the gift for the first time. What will that initial glance convey to him or her?
Hand delivered baskets are a different assembly process. I have to admit that I haven’t developed the technique so I only watch with awe as an empty basket and a collection of fresh fruit come together into a piece of art. Leather leaf ferns line the bottom of the basket to cushion the fruit. Then one-by-one the fruit is assembled like puzzle pieces. It reminds me of making a stone wall where each stone is carefully selected to fit precisely into each space and remain stable with the whole. The fruit is then accented with leaves and flowers which vary with the seasons. Pink heather and variegated pit are being used right now. Et voila! An object of beauty that is so much more than just the sum of its parts.
When I leave my desk and computer screen and get out onto the production floor, I am reminded of what it is we do here at Manhattan Fruitier, and how proud I am of the gifts we make.