The magic of the pomegranate.
Too much has happened since I’ve last written to make a coherent post that covers it all. I have moved into a fancy hotel. I have made travel plans for our break, a week from now. I have met two groups of people, and introduced these people to each other. I have drunk a long island iced tea in a bar beside my TA. I have ridden side-saddle in a skirt on a motorcycle.
But I feel it’s only possible to begin with one thing at a time, and today I want to talk about the pomegranate.
I had never eaten a pomegranate before I came to India. Whereas most people love fruit, I have a very picky and uncomfortable relationship with it. I hate bananas. I also dislike apples generally, unless they’re in some sort of dessert. Oranges are good, but only sometimes. My disdain for strawberries, I think, is widely known among my friends. I have few exceptions to this hatred of fruit. Pineapple–pineapple is good. This past summer in Jaipur, I became fond of mango. I also discovered lychee… which is glorious and deserving of much verse and praise.
But by far, my favorite fruit is now the pomegranate. In fact, I have developed a steadily increasing pomegranate addiction. Fruit markets and carts are widely available here and last Friday night I set out for one down a few narrow lanes near the hotel. It looked lovely–all lit up with lights strung through the bazaar, a narrow walkway in between carts on both sides selling every kind of fruit and vegetable, scales on the side of each cart, the smell of incense that someone is always burning. I asked one man about the price of his pomegranates and ended up walking away with a kilo of them–5 or 6–for 100R. (that’s about 50 cents a pomegranate).
In the summer, our cook at the program would sometimes add pomegranate seeds and something green to the rice. It was delicious, but it wasn’t until a week ago, when my roommate Clare offered me one that I decided I needed to create space for pomegranates in my life. And now, like some kind of addict, I’m buying a kilo at a time and sometimes running out within a day. I usually have one or two in the morning between Hindi and my Religion and Arts class, and one or two later in the night while studying. And then maybe right before I go to bed. And maybe at some other time, too.
If you’ve never had a pomegranate, they seem very strange–you open the orange-sized rind to find hundreds of bright red seeds, all packed up neatly into separate compartments. Breaking into the little compartments is immensely satisfying, like winning. The pomegranate is the cat of the fruit world; it requires attention and work before it rewards you. (An admittedly weird simile; it’s been two weeks, give me a break.)
Once you get to the seeds though, you find that they taste lovely. They lack all of the aspects that turn me away from other fruit. Bananas have a grossly squishy texture; pomegranates are crisp, with a thin skin and a watery inside. And the taste is clean, tangy and somewhat woodsy and floral.
Wondering why I’d never had a pomegranate before, I approached Wikipedia and discovered some interesting facts:
1. The pomegranate is native from the Middle East to the Himalayan foothills of India. It is widely used in these areas, as well as Central Asia and Southern Europe and some parts of Southeast Asia. It was introduced into the Americas (think: California) later on and is primarily used there for juice production. India makes wide use of the pomegranate however, which is why it’s available at all the fruit markets, and why it was in my rice (and a dosa, recently, I think.)
2. Because the pomegranate has been historically native in an area where several major religions developed, it is a frequently mentioned fruit in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Also, there are some people who believe the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve partook of in the Garden of Eden was a pomegranate instead of an apple.
3. The pomegranate is high in vitamin C and vitamin B5. It is also high in antioxidants and has been shown as effective in reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Have you experienced a pomegranate? Now’s the time. Embrace life!