10 November 2008

Morals and pears

Being a vigorous gardener, my grandmother thinks the grass is always greener on the other side, particularly if said side is her neighbour’s garden.

Every now and then, for purposes of pure investigation, she would casually pick just a few fruits or vegetables from the neighbour’s lusciously green side, study those closely, write her observations down (to make sure she remembers a right sort of vegetation in question when time arrives to plant again), and finally cook them. She practiced a very decent co-existence, you see. Apart from the times, though, when that certain neighbour acted outrageously impolitely, with throwing the weeds over the fence into our garden, or pulling apart a row of carrots my grandmother had so devotedly planted in ‘nobody’s patch of soil’ , and other sidesplitting things that could only happen between two gardeners who were so ferociously passionate about their crops. In short, he was very anal, that neighbour. So, at choppy times like these, open confrontations, flourishing arguments at the fence and all, my grandmother couldn’t think of anything else but to undertake night raids on – of course - the other side, that one behind the fence. You would expect it, wouldn’t you? I did. And what’s more, she even let me participate: we would get dressed in dark sweat suits (to mingle with the blackness of the night) and go for a brief night harvesting, filling a small basket with pears, quinces, apples, aubergines, beetroots, etc. (We didn’t feel like being picky, you understand.) Should I be ashamed of my childhood 'extravaganzas'? I think not.

On a side note, I wish to say that as a preventive measure against turning me into a tricky individual in future, I was strictly told by my grandmother not to replicate anything of the kind, not to even think of anything alike. We also prayed a lot (and still do). Eventually, I grew into a law-abiding citizen. Nevertheless, as a kid, I didn’t care much of the ethic side of life and joyfully anticipated yet another argument with the neighbour, and thus a following midnight adventure. Honestly.

Interestingly, for years I wouldn’t recall of such compromising episodes that took place in the early stages of my life. Not until last week, when I happened to poach a few stubbornly solid pears – legally bought at the farmer’s market, thank you for asking.
So exciting, isn’t it, the power of memories. Food memories too, while at that. Those pears I poached, it was not exactly a recipe my grandmother would use. Nor were they reminiscent of the neighbour's pears we treated outselves to. Even a recipe per se it was not: more of a mixing-stirring-simmering approach. With a bottle of good red, for that matter, everything seems deceitfully simple, if you ask me.

Poached Pears with Cardamom
Makes 2 servings

500 ml water
250 ml dry red wine
2 good Tsp honey
3-4 cardamom pods, cracked
2 break-your-teeth-solid pears

1. Wash and dry the pears; core them. If necessary, flatten the pears’ bottoms by cutting off their base slightly – you don’t want them to be swaying sideways in a pot.
2. Combine water, wine and honey, and bring to a simmer in a cast-iron pot/saucepan.
3. Add the pears and cracked open cardamom pods.
4. Cover and simmer at a very low flame until the fruits are soft.
5. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate; the pears keep well for a few days.

Now, another positive side-effect of this fruit dish – in a row with satisfaction and reminiscing – is its syrupy liquid that drinks (!!!) so well: a cross between a mulled wine and a Russian
medovukha, an alcoholic beverage brewed with honey.

Unbelievably good, take my honest word for it.


Cinnamonda said...

Hi Anya!
It's been a long while since I visited the blogosphere. I have simply been busy with other things. But I'm very happy I visited your blog today. I enjoyed reading your post very much. You should really write a short story of that childhood memory!
Did I understand correctly that you are in Amsterdam now? I will be visiting the city very soon. Would you like to meet me?

Toni said...

Ah yes.....love the midnight raids. I suspect I would have loved your grandmother!

Funny that I should have just commented on another blog about pears, that my favorite way of fixing them is poaching them in wine.

Cookiemouse said...

Are you still in Amsterdam?