Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Laptop Lunches #45

I felt like I wanted something special today for some reason. So re-inventing a slightly limp salad yet again did not appeal to me. So instead, I have carrot sticks, snow peas, grape tomatoes, a cup of yogurt ranch for dipping (hooray! Even if I did have to go to the pricey store I never go to otherwise to find it), a stuffed egg, a handful of small black olives, orange slices on a bed of pomegranate seeds, and sauteed shrimp.

I strongly associate pomegranates with my father, but could not remember why until this morning. I have passed by the display of pomegranates in the grocery store for a few weeks, wondering why they so reminded me of him. Other than vaguely knowing he liked them, this made no sense. Finally, I bought one, because the winter really does bring a certain scarcity of appealing fresh fruit, and this morning, with a large knife, sliced into it on my cutting board, sending a stream of red juice all over the place.

And then, I knew. As I partially cleaned up the pomegranate massacre, which will leave stains on the wood of the surface for a while, I had a flash of memory that made me realize two things. One, I have never in my life cut into a fresh pomegranate. Two, I have watched my father do it many times, and based on this it seems I did it wrong.

During my very early childhood, when in the depth of winter pomegranates appeared in grocery stores, my father would buy one and bring it home and set it on the table, with an air of ceremony. My mother would protest that the things were too messy and she wanted nothing to do with them, and in any case she would not allow them to be eaten in the kitchen. (I do not have any pomegranate memories, other than this, that involve my mother; true to her word, she had nothing to do with them.) So in the evening, my older brother and I would sit on an old towel in the living room, and my father would sit down with us, with his supplies: a pocket knife, and two bowls.

He would cut through the outer shell of the fruit with the knife, careful not to disturb the red jewels within, then pry it open over one of the bowls and scrape out the seeds, occasionally grabbing handfuls to pop into his mouth. We would take the seeds from the bowl and bite into them, sending the rush of juice all over us, and spit the white pits into the other bowl. One pomegranate later, Dad would survey the damage--an old towel with fresh stains, and two very young children coated in sticky red juice. He would put us in the tub and more or less hose us down under the shower, then pull us out into fresh towels, find something resembling pajamas (more often than not, this meant wearing one of his old t-shirts) and put us to bed. The pomegranate ritual was only ours--who knows where my mother was during all of this.

But it's been about 25 years, I think, since this last happened, and just as mysterious as my mother's absence in the memory is why this winter ritual stopped. But the pomegranate ritual is really one of my better childhood memories, so I am glad I recovered it this morning--and at lunch, when the spurt of pomegranate juice in my mouth made it all the more vivid.

If I were going home this Christmas, perhaps we'd all eat a pomegranate again. In lieu of this, I will finish mine alone, with a vague smile of a pleasant secret.

Merry Christmas, Daddy.

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3 comments:

  1. Beautiful creation and looks yummy!

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  2. That was really beautifully written and such a wonderful family memory! This fits in PERFECTLY with the Food Adventure theme and I am so happy that you shared. The funny thing is that I have a pomegranate sitting on my counter at this very moment that I have been hesitant to cut into!! With your wonderful memories in mind, I will certainly have to (or perhaps I will suggest that my husband make it his tradition!)

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