I recently watched the 2012 film The Fruit Hunters – which thrillingly documents exotic fruit fanatics and people who are obsessed with planting and growing fruits internationally. The opening scene made me realize how much I can clump myself into this population as the fruit porn montage of luscious cross sections of pears and glorious globes of dew dripping cherries and perfect plump ovals of loquats and grapes had me transfixed to the scene like a twisted fetishist. I blush to admit that just the other day the Cute Gardener had to remind me under his breath in the outdoor aisles of the garden center that I couldn’t just forage the grapefruit on the ground underneath the potted tree that was for sale of the same name. Still earlier I scoured a Granada Hills hike hoping to find citrus in the orchards that weren’t already brown with rot. I’m addicted to fruit like others are to sex.
I only use the sexual metaphor because it is an obvious one. From the Garden of Eden to the liquid-stoked orgies of Dionysis, fruit has been matched up with risk, pleasure, rebellion and sin for centuries and what could be more taboo and sexy than that? Not to mention the way fruit looks as it blooms from the copulation of pollination into a fleshy and juicy adult. In fact, my first memory of eating fruit is a highly sensuous one.
I don’t recall the geographic location I was at nor do I recall who I was with, and I know I was only somewhere near six years old, as I sat in some shady lawn in someone’s front yard and bit into a ripened purple fig. And just like that bittersweet moment of first puppy love or that stomach ache feeling of the first time we are physically attracted to another human being, the butterflies in my guts took flight leaving me halfway filled with anxiety and halfway filled with a pure and astounding bliss. There must have been a tree close by because I have distinct and visceral visions of plucking more and more off of the grass and stuffing my face with glee.
To this day the fig holds its special reign in my heart as my “first” affair with fruit. I have never bought a fig in the market in all these years. Instead, throughout my life, I have managed to seek out kind friends and neighbors with an overabundance of figs in the summer who gladly donate their overages to my delight. I tend to seek out trees close by and stalk them until they dump their delicious fare onto public spaces of ground. I am a self-proclaimed charity case for any and all fig donors in my environment and no amounts are too big for me.
I was recently granted a beautiful bounty of green figs by a friend who remarked over tapas one night at the sumptuous Racion in Pasadena that her tree was currently in burst. The CG and I ended up following her home after our meal to gratefully receive a bag of the fruits. One was down my throat before we even arrived home. The rest were scattered out over the next 48 hours into a series of my meals as I devoured them heartily.
They were diced into chunks and sprinkled on top of coconut yogurt and Armenian sesame bread and rolled up like a lavosh for breakfast. They were halved and sprinkled with feta and drizzled with honey for lunch. They were sliced in half and stuffed with a hunk of Parmesan and splashed with balsamic vinegar for an afternoon snack. And finally, they were gobbled down with tea (which the CG thinks figs actually taste like) first thing in the morning.
It was a fast and fleeting two days that, like all illicit affairs, still leave me a tad guilty at my loss of control as well as secretly pleased with my ability to indulge in those times when it is absolutely worth it.