Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

Fruit is good. Boring, but good. I just read a blurb that suggested putting a huge bowl of fruit on the table for dessert, more than you think anyone would eat, and I was whisked back to a much-loved ritual from my childhood. As a large Italian family, wed often get together for the official Sunday dinner. Its true, theyd last for hours, with the adults sitting around and talking, and the children playing between courses.

But in that lovely space between dinner and dessert, while everyone was taking a break, except the women cleaning up the kitchen, an enormous bowl of seasonal fruit would appear, with a bowl of nuts in the shell, and perhaps a few dried figs or dates. And then the ritual began. The man of the household would start cracking nuts, often recruiting my brother or one of my male cousins was recruited to help (lets not talk about the sexism here, OK?). The presiding male would then stuff the figs and dates with the nuts, and hand them around to everyone at the table, one by one, along with a warm comment.

The conversation at these points was very gentle, generally full of reminiscences and laughter. While we were waiting our turn, wed munch on a few grapes, or share a tangerine or an apple not too much because we knew DESSERT was coming. The espresso would eventually appear, signaling that a procession of pastries and cookies was about to come, and with it, the noise level would increase again. Many of these people have passed, and with their loss, were losing or maybe even have already lost – the continuity.

Those precious few minutes, hearing the family stories, the warmth of the conversation, the closeness, meant more to me than eating fruit. On the one hand, it was just plain fruit. But on the other, it was true food for the spirit, incorporating the best part of what it means to be a family. In these days, when were aching for connectedness, and hungry for more than nutrition from our meals, maybe we need more ritual.

14 thoughts on “The fruit bowl

  1. kp says:

    Fruit? Boring? How? All those colours and tastes and textures – marvellous.

    I love the stuff – everything except Sharon fruit (too sweet).

    If only it wasn’t bad for your teeth….

  2. Steph says:

    I love fruit too, especially citrus fruit like oranges and grapefruit. Grapefruit always reminds me of my childhood, because that’s what my parents and I used to eat for breakfast.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Hey, there’s nothing bad for your teeth about fruit if you brush your teeth. Of course I DO remember that when I was a kid in the 60s we always poured table sugar on our fruit!! I don’t recommend that, by the way!

    If you have access to a farmer’s market, you might want to try getting fruit there — it might be a little blemished and less colorful than the ‘factory’ variety, but the taste will be out of this world.

  4. L. says:

    What a lovely memory, Jane! Thanks for sharing it! I agree that even fruit CAN be boring. I tend to get in ruts with foods, anyway, and have to make a special effort to shake things up.
    The seasonal changes in fruit are nice. I was starting to grieve the loss of apples and citrus, until I was able to enjoy strawberries and look forward to blueberries soon. Then there’ll be the summer fruits, the home-grown melons and peaches, oh, my! Eventually it’ll be time for apples and citrus again, and then I’ll be grieving the end of the melons and peaches! 🙂

  5. Quinn says:

    When i was a kid, waaay back in the sixties, fruit was indeed boring. Apples and oranges were pretty much it, until summer came. Even then the selection at the local grocery stores never tasted like much. And my parents, both of whom were born and raised in Hawaii, complained nonstop! 😀

    It depends on where you buy your fruit, I think. The Fruit at my local Giant grocery is boring. Yes, it is. Rarely tastes like much, especially the apples. The local Whole Foods is better. The local food coop can usually be depended on to provide *something* that tastes like it should.

    You gotta head to the nearest farmers’ market for the good stuff. Even in summer. Unless you’re willing to grow your own.

    mmmmmm! Summer!

  6. k says:

    Fruit IS bad for your teeth. Combination of sugar and acid = bad. And brushing your teeth straight afterwards is, apparently, worst of all – you strip the acid-weakened enamel off that way. The dentist advice was to eat cheese afterwards – I suppose it clings to the fruit juice and takes it off. I suppose sugar-free gum might help also.

    Organic fruit really does taste better maybe as it tends (like the farmer’s market stuff) to be actually picked when ripe, not ages before to cope with transport/storage/refrigeration. Very few fruits actually ripen once picked – bananas do, but I’m struggling to think of any others. Hence the no-flavour.

  7. jonquil says:

    Here’s a tip for encouraging flavor and ripeness in soft fruit like strawberries or blueberries. Wash the fruit when you get it home, shake off as much water as possible, and put the fruit in a colander lined with a clean, absorbent cotton towel. Wrap the towel around the fruit and put it in the refrigerator. Or you could leave it out if you plan to eat it that day. The cotton towel absorbs excess moisture, which intensifies the flavor, just as the sun does on a hot day. Keeps the berries from rotting too fast, as well. I’ve kept strawberries going for a week this way. They look a little dry, but they actually get riper inside.

  8. Quinn says:

    Thanks for the tip, Jonquil! 🙂

  9. Janie says:

    Good article Jane! This reminded me of my Grandmother who has been gone since 1964. She used to babysit me way out in the country. I remember her slicing fresh peaches from their peach tree into a bowl and adding fresh milk. I thought it was the best dessert I ever tasted and to this day, peaches remind me of her. Her name was Jane too! I also remember sitting around the old TV with my family eating popcorn or cheese and crackers. Our snacks were always healthy and we loved them, but the special family time was the best memory of all.

  10. Tutorgal says:

    Boring fruit? Not at this website I found yesterday:

    http://www.ediblearrangements.com/

    I’m gonna make mom and arrangement myself for Mother’s day this Sunday!

  11. Angel says:

    I come from a European family also and i can totally relate!!! i loved my childhood 🙂

  12. Susan says:

    Yes, the ritual is missing from our lives. The events that connected us as family. A community.

    This was beautifully written and I could easily imagine myself at that table.

  13. Mary says:

    Jane & Jonathan,

    I’m not getting your postings — I still get juju’s, though! Please let me know if I should re-subscribe. Thanks,

    Mary

  14. JuJu says:

    Actually, folks, I haven’t sent the subscription newsletter out (or written, really_ in just ages and ages. I find I can’t keep up with it at this stage in my life. I’m working on an answer. But I do appreciate everyone’s patience.

    Thanks for your interest!

    J.

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