Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Big Red One

It sits on the dining room table like a prop from a minimalist poem by William Carlos Williams, reminding me in many ways of the Poe story, The Purloined Letter, an object in plain sight, lovely in its red promise and crown-like top, but lost among the quiddities, the oranges, grapefruit, bananas, plums, resolute against the sneaky incursion of the fall pears and apples. And now cometh forth the persimmon, which I admire as a color and as a fruity pulp served atop a dollop of serious vanilla ice cream or baked into a brioche for morning coffee.

Much as I dote on them all, they pale in the presence, the mere thought of IT.

The potential dangers of eating it--face, shirt, hands all vulnerable--are nothing in comparison to the joy of the seeds hitting the tongue. The taste of it, a slight sweetness, a slight reminder of a desert wine, is somewhat undercut by the awareness of how healthy it is, how insidious it is to HDLs and free radicals, but not undercut enough to make it less memorable or desirable.

It is, of course, the pomegranate. The one on the dining room table is a shiny red, a pomegranate red. I have also seen varieties where the skin is more of a matte finish.

I have only vague memories of my early pomegranates. They recede into the past like old, impossible loves. There is some memory of being too impatient to follow my mother's exacting method for cutting the fruit into manageable chunks or waiting for her to magically remove all the seeds from the puckery yellow inner pulp. There were times in back yards, hidden behind trees, spitting the inner pulp into a large grocery bag. There were times of eating the pomegranate over the sink, rendering the porcelain a bloody looking mass of drippings that gradually gave me away by staining the porcelain an inky blue.

In early years, I came to believe the pomegranate went out of its way to betray me with stained hands, cheeks, shirts, and of course the sink, and as a consequence swore eternal love and allegiance to the watermelon.

Man of the world that I have become, my worldliness is the acquired Zen of being at one with all fruit, understanding the sound of one banana peeling, wrinkling my nose at the citrus oiliness of the orange, losing myself in the Milky Way of the seeds of a fig, indulging the Talmudic discourse with myself of whether to have one more slice of a casaba or watermelon slice. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, I strive for at least one serving of pink grapefruit a day which, all though I love the experience, still does not bring me to the oneness I experience with the pomegranate.


Anonymous said...

Shelly: Now you can buy pomegranite juice at Costco. I call that cheating! That tart taste-gland-popping juice had to be earned to be appreciated.
Can't help also but think of the (nowdays) underappreciated writer, William Saroyan, who wrote a story about his father's failed pomegranite venture in the foothills outside Fresno.
Saroyan... it's Indian summer, and I'm missing home.
- Karen.

Smiler said...

You have good taste in fruit! :-)

I traveled to Crete once and ended up staying five months just so I could be there when fig season arrived, because I wanted to be able to pick them fresh and fully ripened off the tree. Sigh. I don't have the kind of lifestyle which affords me that kind of indulgence any longer, but I can tell you it was very much worth waiting for. Crete wasn't bad either. I should write about it some day. So many great characters to work with!

I love pomegranates. So much so that when the season arrives, I buy bundles of them and instead of apples, eat a pomegranate a day. Interesting you should post this now because I have a short story in the works which features pomegranates, wouldn't you know.

Smiler said...

Rhythm. I meant rhythm. Both times. In French it's rythme. That's why. Being perfectly bilingual has it's drawbacks: it means you speak and read two languages imperfectly (when you're me).