"There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat."
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
We had all had enough TV for the day – football games that seemed to go on and on, reruns of Duck Dynasty, and silly local news that featured shoppers on the go since yesterday. We turned it off and enjoyed the silence. I made myself a cup of tea and picked up a beautiful book that Maggie gave me last Christmas: 40 Years of Chez Panisse, the Power of Gathering, written by Alice Waters and Friends. (For those of you who don't keep up with the superstars of the food world, Chez Panisse is a restaurant in Berkeley, CA, founded by Alice Waters in 1971 and known for using local, organic food. It's been named the best restaurant in America.)
Organized by decade, the book chronicals the evolution of the small restaurant through its rise and acclaim and features photographs, invitations, menus and recollections by public figures and cooks who have been inspired by or mentored at the restaurant. It was a great way to spend an hour or three.
The last spread in the book featured an afterword by Michael Pollan who recalled ordering a bowl of fruit for dessert the first time he dined at Chez Panisse. "What arrived at the table was a small, unpolished bowl of hammered copper set atop a round, hammered copper base, and in that bowl rested two perfect peaches wreathed in a scatter of equally perfect raspberries." He goes on to explain that "the wonder of it was that the kitchen had somehow arranged for those peaches and raspberries to land on our table not a moment sooner or later than that narrow interlude of perfection."
Reading this got me to thinking about our breakfast this morning and also about a pawpaw that I experienced a couple of months ago.
After the excesses of yesterday, I wanted something fresh and simple for breakfast. I had used two bright orange Hachiya persimmons in a centerpiece yesterday and they were becoming perfectly soft and ripe.
I cut them up and added the fruit to some greek yogurt, drizzled on some honey and sprinkled the tiniest bit of sea salt on top. So perfect to eat at that exact moment.
Like eating strawberries in May, or blackberries in July, persimmons are meant for November. I've not had many persimmons in my life, but plan to going forward. Our orchard has two persimmon trees that I am anxiously awaiting their bearing of fruit. I think they are a different type than the one I had for breakfast. They are called fuyu persimmons and are squat, like a tomato – supposedly not as astringent as the Hachiya ones.
Eating fruit when it is perfectly in season really does make a difference. In late September, Ed and I stopped by an orchard near Owenton, KY to buy some apples. The chalk board in back of the bushel baskets of apples listed pawpaws for sale. Having never had a pawpaw, I was excited to try one. Unfortunately, only one was left. I took it, but was disappointed at how it looked: all brown and squishy, like an overripe banana. I brought it home and put in the refrigerator, afraid to leave it out on the counter overnight. In the morning, I cut it in two, fished out five large seeds and scooped out a bite. It was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted: sweet, a cross between an banana and a mango, custardlike. Being the nice person that I am, I presented Ed with the other half.
Pawpaws are native trees in this area, often growing in patches as understory trees. We have searched our entire farm, but have yet to find any pawpaw trees growing in our woods. We have planted three pawpaws seedlings, along with the five seeds that I saved from our one brown, squishy specimen. We will just have to wait for them to produce pawpaws. The wait might be long, but it will be so worth it. Just like the song says, we'll head down to the pawpaw patch and pick up pawpaws and put 'em in a basket.
Then we'll eat them when they are perfectly ripe.