Just before I left home for good at 17, each of my parents took me aside in turn and imparted one final lesson that they thought would serve me well in adult life. My father taught me how to write a personal check correctly so it couldn’t be tampered with and I wouldn’t wind up getting robbed blind. His world spun on an axis that dictated that people in general were just lying in wait to do you harm the moment you dropped your guard. Even at 17, I felt that he was most certainly wrong.

My mother’s advice was also based in fear — her own. She took me to the local Grand Union supermarket to teach me how to buy chicken that wouldn’t immediately kill me. This was years before the sell-by dates infected our world and people had to rely on their own resources and plain common sense. I felt uncomfortable tagging along as she picked each package up and pretended to scrutinize it. She was actually poking her pinky finger through the plastic wrapper, and while pretending to be nearsighted she sniffed it and replaced it in the display. It was done with a magician’s sleight of hand ease and she actually had to give me a slow-motion replay before I could grasp the technique fully. I sheepishly asked her how would I know a good one from a bad one and she merely said, “Oh don’t worry, you’ll know.”

Not long after I found myself shopping for myself in a Giant Eagle supermarket in Pittsburgh, trying to stick to the plan. After I had selected what I reasoned to be a perfectly safe package of chicken thighs, I started squeezing melons, not exactly sure of what I was looking for. A man stocking the display cottoned on to my lack of experience. “Here, let me show you how to pick a ripe melon,” he said. He was wearing a long white coat that made him look like a chemist so I paid attention and quickly learned the proper way to determine if a melon was ripe and sweet or not. It isn’t hard once someone shows you how. And that’s the whole point. Useful knowledge, some of it lifesaving, used to be passed down from one generation to the next. There was an important connection made and the chain of knowledge was preserved.

In today’s world people seem to rely more on a variety of gadgets and techniques gleaned from cell phone apps and information straight off the internet. The connection from one generation to the next appears to have been circumvented entirely, and I can’t help feeling that this new smarty pants way of acquiring knowledge is somehow lacking. Instead of sniffing the milk in the carton, we search for a printed date to see if it’s safe to drink. Our extremely sensitive noses get left out. This might not be the worst thing you’ve ever heard of, but consider this: I discovered that after the sell-by date has passed the milk is generally good for another three weeks.

I’m not any sort of expert, but I do know a thing or two about picking a ripe melon and I’m always happy to pass it along. Through time immemorial, food has done more than nourish our bodies. It has nourished our souls and built connections between people. The traditions that grow out of food have also built more vibrant communities and become a part of that amorphous thing we all share called culture.

I like to think that beyond the world of gadgetry, there still exists an unbroken chain, rich with knowledge passed down from one generation to the next. I’m sure there will be a cell phone app for testing a melon’s ripeness before long, but I for one won’t be using it no matter what.

My last 10 years as a shopkeeper at Fiddlehead Farm have taught me so much and I am deeply grateful for the support the local community has given me. It was well worth it.

I’ve also managed to navigate the years since my father’s early lesson in check writing without losing the belief that people are basically good. But I still sniff the chicken before it goes in the grocery cart.

Robert Skydell will close Fiddlehead Farm in West Tisbury this fall.