“Let us learn to appreciate there will be times when the trees will be bare, and look forward to the time when we may pick the fruit.” — Anton Chekhov
I had always liked fruits, but I didn’t love them the way I do now. I never really have a sweet tooth (except when it came to chocolate), and that’s changed too. One reason I find it easy to get out of bed now is knowing breakfast is simple and delicious: fresh fruits.
I eat fruits about two-three times a day, every day, always on an empty stomach and always on its own. I wake up and eat a bit. Then I go for a swim then have some more. And again at tea-time.
Of all the changes to my diet, this is the one that has soothed me the most. It’s taken the stress out of meals and travelling. Just about everywhere I go, I can find something fresh and local to eat.
I now make a meal out of fruits. When friends see how much I eat, they actually balk. I don’t sit with one measly banana; I’ll have five at a time. I’ll eat half a papaya at a go. Two apples and a pear. I haven’t yet spent a day eating only fruits, but the idea doesn’t terrify (or appal) me any more.
Fruit enthusiasts (other than me) often declare them to be “the original fast food”. Yes and no. They are faster than a lot of other meals (and certainly in terms of digestion speed – and this is a good thing, believe it or not), but they’re not always convenient to eat, especially tropical ones.
Many require intensive peeling and extracting. Some are messy. When I started to eat mangoes this year (having spent a lifetime vaguely shunning them on the mistaken belief they were fattening – yet never saying no to french fries or pizza, of course…) this is how I’d eat them: standing by the kitchen sink, half spooning them out and half slurping them straight off their skins. I would tuck a tea towel over me bib-style so I wouldn’t drip all over my clothes. I know! So not chic. Thankfully I live alone and nobody was around to be appalled by my lack of elegance.
Then I learnt how to chop and extract them easily and super fast (details at the end of this post). Hallelujah! I could now actually prepare them then eat them sitting down. No dribbling or bibs (I blush) required.
Two things happened as a result: I used to eat three mangoes at a time before, and after seeing what that looks like in one bowl made even me balk. Whoa! Don’t the Chinese say to never eat anything bigger than your head? I realised two were plenty, appeasing the hunger of the eyes, as Bengalis call it (to blend various cultural references).
The other was that sitting down and eating properly made a difference to how satisfied I felt with the meal. Standing and eating, or peeling-spooning-eating didn’t allow me to enjoy the experience.
Food, and especially fruits, and especially mangoes (and while we’re at it, especially Kesar mangoes – my new love, better than Alphonso; now at the tail end of their season, boo hoo) are a delight. It’s a shame to be distracted while eating them.
Fruits don’t require “recipes” as such, but the tips I’ve learnt about preparing them have really helped me, so I’m passing them on.
I used to sit with a bowl of lychees and pop them in my mouth as I peeled. Much like standing and slurping mangoes, this was messy and distracting, taking away from the pleasure of simply eating them. I now peel a bunch at a go. A friend of mine even de-seeds them so she can eat them while driving.
I learnt this from hearing Martha Stewart on an NPR podcast, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me:
- Cut a pomegranate into four equal parts (if you want to lose as little juice as possible, cut only into the skin and tear apart the rest, so the bulk of the actual seeds stay intact more than if you cut right through them with a knife).
- Over a large bowl, hold a quarter in your palm, fruit side down, skin side up.
- Thump a wooden spoon against the skin.
- The pomegranate seeds will effortlessly pour into the bowl below. (Shy ones may need manual extraction.)
Pomegranate juice stains, so watch out for pale coloured clothing, tableclothes and floors if you get particularly enthusiastic with that wooden spoon. (Tea-towel bib, anyone?)
Fruit-wise, this kind of changed my life. Here’s how to get the flesh out easy peasy:
- Slice the cheeks off both sides, as close to the pit as possible.
- Using the edge of a tall-ish glass, ease it into a cheek, skin out, flesh inside. Slide it down and the flesh will neatly, cleanly and quickly fall inside the glass. Wowza! Repeat with the other cheek.
- Chop off the remaining skin around the pit, and slice off bits where you can.
“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?” — Albert Einstein
Watch the evolution of Tehran from filmmaker Massoud Bakhshi in this film that took five years to make, Tehran Has No More Pomegranates.
On memories and redemption without being maudlin or sentimental, this is a classic for all the right reasons. Watch Wild Strawberries, directed by Ingmar Bergman.