Friday, December 2, 2011

Slices of quince

One of the expressions I get great use out of in French is avoir un bon plan, which signifies having a good idea, project or scheme. There is also its opposite, avoir un mauvais plan, which in turn signifies having a loser idea, project or scheme. I have a lot of mauvais plans. Here is my latest:

Why hello, strange yellow fruit!

That, my friends, is a coing, or in English, a quince. I was indulging in my favorite pastime the other day—cruising the produce aisle to be specific—when as luck would have it, I noticed some exotic-looking (and therefore fun) fruit giving me the eye. Ignoring all past crash-and-burns in the exotic-looking fruit department (e.g. desiccated pomelos, bitter starfruit, buckshot-filled cactus pears, and hideously sweet cherimoya), I bought not one, but TWO of these things. I arrived home, artfully arranged them in my fruit bowl alongside more classic seasonal favorites, and left them to ripen. Four days later I figured they looked edible, so I took one and bit into it.

I’m lucky to have managed to disengage my teeth without leaving any of them implanted in the fruit’s ROCK HARD, bitter flesh. Whaaa??? OK, not ripe yet. I’ll give them another week, I figured. But a week later, no change. Bizarre. So I decided to leave them an even longer while longer.

Today it has officially been two months since I bought these fruit. Two months. And the damn things haven’t changed at all in appearance or texture. This is totally unnatural (two-month-old kiwis, for instance, would have long become pure liquefied nastiness). While I have been waiting on my quinces, whole families—nay, generations!—of tangerines, apples, grapes and bananas have come and gone from the fruit bowl, but does that incite my quinces to hurry the hell up and ripen already? Certainly not! Maybe they’ve been genetically modified. Or maybe some prankster threw a few wax models into the fruit bin.

Looks real to me.

Then again, maybe they are ripe. Maybe that’s just the nature of quinces. Maybe that’s why NO ONE EATS THEM. I mean really, who eats quince? Yeah, they make great jam; that is precisely why I bought them. Tasty jam = tasty fruit, n’est-ce pas? Plus—and this goes back to my wine marketing past—the quince is often cited in the tasting notes of several white wines that I seriously enjoy. You know, inspiring stuff like this: “clean and crisp, with soft, fruity aromas of white peach and quince.” Then again, no one knows better than I how made up imaginative tasting notes can be for having written legions of them myself. Sigh. I was hoping for so much more from the quince.

Why? Because I grew up with “The Owl and the Pussycat”:

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
     Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
 And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
     They danced by the light of the moon,
           The moon,
           The moon,
 They danced by the light of the moon.

Is it not perfectly scandalous that the real quince should not live up to the delectable image instilled in my subconscious by such beloved childhood readings? And I’d specifically gone out and purchased a runcible spoon and everything! This is some false advertising, that’s what. Who knows a good lawyer?

Never lost, never will.

In the meantime, I have a friend and colleague who swears that the quince is just scrumptious sliced up and sautéed with apples. That may be. But again, who (else) has ever heard of sautéed quince? Plus, let us not forget that my quinces are two months old! So do I have to go out and track down some gnarled old apples to accompany them? Because “ancient fruit sauté” sounds pretty off-putting. Maybe I could just distill it all into some sort of vile liqueur.

See? This is precisely what characterizes le mauvais plan. Can you not feel the loserness of its aura? From now on, my exotic fruit purchases shall be limited to pineapples. Maybe some coconut. And a few litchis. But that’s it. I’ll leave the quince to the owls and the pussycats. They obviously have some kind of weirdo fruit consumption insight that I lack.

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