My Personal Ode to Pomegranates.
This is my breakfast. It is my favorite food at the moment. Okay, it doesn't look so good in that picture. But do not be deceived by my breakfast's meager looks. It is AWESOME.
Sometimes I think I have a love affair with a certain kind of food – for a while it was Snappy Tom – that spicy tomato juice. I had to have it every day, every single day. I thought about my Snappy Tom when I wasn’t home and I looked forward to that rush of spice and tomato hitting my tongue. Then I began to have Snappy Tom several times during the day and the spices were so intense I began to be unable to taste any other food. Everything began to taste like Snappy Tom. You couldn’t have a glass of Snappy Tom and then have a bowl of cereal, for example. Your whole mouth was all Snappy Tom. Eventually I longed for other tastes, and so inevitably, one day, I broke up with Snappy Tom.
And I didn’t partake in him for months.
And then, slowly, he made his way back into my life. And we developed a more casual, realistic relationship – a Snappy Tom every once in a while when I was in the mood. It was never like it was at the beginning between Tom and me, but still – we found a way to be together in a more sustainable way. And it was like Snappy Tom and I would remember the old days, the days when I was obsessed with Snappy Tom. Sometimes I found myself chuckling as I poured a glass, thinking: “Remember when I was in a panic if I was out of Snappy Tom? Oh Tom, that was just nuts!” Or now, I order Snappy Tom on the plane and I shake my head – oh…Tom. Tom!
There were others, naturally. Fresh nine grain bread, bagel bread with blue cheese and tomatoes. And then, just…tomatoes. My neighbor grows tomatoes and when they are ripe I have a tomato sandwich every single day. I look forward to it – lunch today – dinner the next, and some days I have it for lunch and dinner! The tomato and fresh mayonnaise and fresh bread, a dash of salt and if I’m in the mood, pepper, and oh! During the rest of the year, I avoid tomatoes. None of them are as good as fresh – you can’t go back! You look at these stale, pale red, globs and think: they are selling these as -- tomatoes? There is no comparison with a fresh tomato just picked!
So, this winter, I have become obsessed with Pomegranates. My dear friend Julia, who is not me, but another person, who lives a couple of blocks away, came over one day with a grocery bag. Inside was low fat cottage cheese, a papaya, some pecans, some toasted sliced almonds, and…a pomegranate. She looked me deeply in the eyes and said in hushed tones, “Prepare yourself. Get ready to ROCK YOUR WORLD.” And then she handed me the brown paper bag. It was like she was handing me contraband: heroin, hullucinogenic mushrooms, pornography. "It just came to me, this recipe," she said. I love that. How it "came to her", the recipe sought her out, somehow. It's like when the Irish say, "The thirst, it came upon me!"
So, this is the basic recipe: 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, a quarter of a ripe papaya, two tablespoons of toasted sliced almonds, and a tablespoon of chopped pecans. Then, about a half of a fresh pomegranate. It takes a while, the pomegranate takes twenty minutes to cut up and get the seeds out. But I listen to the news on the radio and sip my coffee.
While I pick apart the pomegranate, I think about all things pomegranate. I think about being in Greece in my travels after college and seeing the locals – I think this was when I was on the Island of Santorini, and they would eat the pomegranate like it was an apple, well, they would break it open, so that part wasn’t like an apple, But they would just eat into it, even the white film around the vesicles of seeds and the juice would run down their faces and they looked like they were bleeding to death, but they were smiling ear to ear. I wasn’t so into pomegranates then. I was worried I would get red pomegranate juice all down my shirt and I didn’t want to have to wash it and plus, the people looked positively mad while they ate them. Oh, how little I understood pomegranates then…
Now, twenty or so years later, I can’t stop thinking about pomegranates. I live in fear that the season is almost over. For a week or so, you couldn’t find any pomegranates at my local grocery and I was in despair. I have this breakfast every single day! And it’s not the same AT ALL without the pomegranates. The pomegranates are the essential ingredient to this recipe. Seriously, I go to bed at night thinking about the morning when I get to have my pomegranate breakfast again! This morning I listened to classical music and spent a half an hour picking apart two whole pomegranates and putting their seeds, one by one, in a Tupperware container. This will get me through until I leave for Monterey on Tuesday. My pomegranate fix is fixed.
And there’s so much to think about while I pick apart the pomegranate. I think I’m Persephone, who Hades convinced to eat the food of the Underworld (the pomegranate, of course) and once she ate those seeds she could never fully leave the Underworld – that’s how strong the pomegranate’s hold was on her. Every year Persephone had to spend three months in Hades, where I imagine her eating this very breakfast that I’m making. During those three months, nothing would grow on earth and it was winter.
And then there are all those medieval pictures of the Virgin Mary with a pomegranate in her hand, a symbol of her hold over the life and death of her son (which was copied from the pictures of Athena who also held a pomegranate in her hand).
Even the Buddhists have pomegranates in their mythology – I saw pictures in Tibet of the goddess Hariti who was a child eater, but the Buddha cured her of her child-eating by substituting a pomegranate for a child, and Hariti was satisfied with the bloody, crunchy pulp – which I guess was SO like eating children. Anyway, Hariti reformed and afterwards became a protectress of little children. In Japan she is called Kishimojin, and she’s called upon by infertile women to help get them pregnant. She is shown nursing and infant, which is held in one hand and in her other hand she is holding...a pomegranate, of course.
But my favorite pomegranate legend is a Jewish one. The Talmud has a story where the wife of a Rabbi disguises herself as a forbidden beautiful maiden to test her husband’s fidelity. When the Rabbi sees her he is overwhelmed with passion. The disguised maiden tells him, "If you bring me a pomegranate you may ravish me to your heart's desire." So, he climbs to the top of this tree and gets a pomegranate. When he arrives back to where the maiden was, he is shocked to see his wife standing there. Ooooops. "Hi honey, do you care for a pomegranate?" Eeeek. The wife doesn’t seem to be too mad, she sort of laughs and says, “Hey it was only me all along, darling!” But the Rabbi is so devastated by his behavior that he says, “Nevertheless, I would have done evil.” And then he fasts himself to DEATH. Oh dear. Oh dear. That is really feeling bad.
So, I am reading this wonderful book by this wonderful author, "Deconstructing Jesus" by Robert Price. I met Robert Price once and I believe he's coming back to town to give at talk at CFI West in a few weeks. I will definitely be there. He is so insightful and he is so damn smart! I feel close to him because we have the same view of religion, reverent towards the power of religion and the necessity of community and all that, but harsh on the myths that religion is based on. I have only read about forty or so pages -- and it's a Prometheus book so that means the layout sucks and the type is too small, but it's really fascinating reading. I'm learning more about all the different Christian sects that were all over the place in the first two centuries of the common era, the very beginings of Christianity. (This is also tackled in "God Against The Gods" to a certain extent) If you know this stuff, the New Testament makes so much more sense! St. Paul's epistles suddenly read like a polemic against all the other Christian sects: Marconionism, Ebionism, Gnosticism. It's so sobering (and ultimately disturbing) to realize that the more freethinking sects, the ones that encouraged the most individual spiritual exploration (like the Gnostics) were not the ones that were so good at institution building - naturally. And they died out. I feel like that's our Democratic party today.
It's pouring rain here and Mulan has a stomach ache. It's going to be an inside kind of day, I think.