J Alfred Prufrock famously measured out his life in coffee spoons. I’ve often thought about that line of TS Eliot‘s poetry. Mostly what I have thought is: are coffee spoons different from teaspoons and, if so, how? And shouldn’t there be a hyphen between “coffee” and “spoon” anyway?

I’ve been musing over it recently because it strikes me that I can measure out my life in apples. It’s slightly less poetic, I grant you, and there’s not much that rhymes with “apples”, so I can understand why Eliot went with another line, but my taste in apples has shifted through the decades in much the same way as my taste in music or clothes.

Every time I’ve come across a different variety, it has brought with it the pleasure of discovery. And yet – as with so much else in life – every time I think I’ve hit upon something new, it turns out to be a tipping point. It’s the same way I imagine darts player Andy Fordham feels about beards: for decades you go about sporting a deeply uncool “geography teacher” look, then before you know it every Tom, Dick and Hipster is growing one to complement their vintage Ray-Bans and buttoned-up plaid shirts.

Take the halcyon Golden Delicious era of the 1980s – a time when Jimmy Savile was still a nice man who gave out badges and I believed that an apple with “Delicious” in the name must truly be the fruity nectar of the gods (it wasn’t, but by the time I’d found this out so had everyone else).

The 90s was the decade of Granny Smith: as bold and brash as Liam Gallagher’s attitude. The cox was briefly my apple of choice in the noughties before it became a middle-class status symbol. For a while after I left university, nothing screamed “ethical style” more than an Abel & Cole organic veg box full of these tiny, misshapen, mud-caked fruits.

Then a few years ago I came across the Jazz apple. It was different. It had a jolly name that made me think of Liza Minnelli in sparkly hotpants. It was only sporadically stocked at my local supermarket. This added to the delightful notion that I had truly found something special not many other people knew about.

But then our relationship soured. Over the following months, Jazz apples slipped inexorably into the mainstream. They started to be sold in generic supermarket packs of four. They got bigger, more swollen and tasteless. An @jazzapple Twitter account attracted more than 2,000 followers with its claim to be “bringing the flavour and crunch back to snack apples!”

From being a carefully cherished secret, the Jazz apple has become the Lady Gaga of fruit, and once again I’m left feeling a tad betrayed. There is an innate human desire to be the one who discovers something first. For Columbus it was America. For the rest of us it’s a band, a book, an artist or – yes – even a fruit.

I felt the same way about the author Richard Yates, who for a while was much less well-known than his near-contemporary John Updike. But then Sam Mendes made a film of Revolutionary Road starring Winslet and DiCaprio, and liking Richard Yates was suddenly seen as a bit derivative.

In a world where everything is posted online, retweeted, liked and shared, it’s increasingly hard to be original. You want to prove you were there first. So you get competitive. You say things like: “Well, Revolutionary Road has its merits, sure, but I find the more nuanced read is The Easter Parade.”

In other words, you become a bit of a twat. So I’m dumping the Jazz apple while my dignity is still intact. There’s a new hybrid variety called SweeTango I’m keen to try. The apples are said to be crisp, juicy and tart. Best of all, they only have 466 followers on Twitter.


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