Thursday, August 4, 2011

Persephone's Fruit

My parents bought me Edith Hamilton's "Mythology" when I was 13. I am 61 now, and still have this old paperback with a missing cover. Not all knowledge needs to come from Wikipedia, and I wanted to read the tale of Persephone and the pomegranate seed her husband Hades, Lord of the Underworld, fed her to ensure she would come back to Hell from Earth each year bringing summer with her. It is a beautiful but sad old story the Greeks told to explain the seasons.

Last year I saw pomegrante seeds for sale at Publix. I did not buy them, but I will this year so I can use them in salads. I am more familiar with the sweet pomegranate juice that comes from California. But as fine as it is, it is not the juice to have around if one has a house full of teenage boys. It is exorbitantly priced at eleven dollars for the largest bottle. Regrettable, for I find it a better match for food than wine is. It cools the hottest chilis and salsas. And it goes well with lamb and sausage dishes. It is not as acidic as wine,which would be like pouring gasoline down your throat after you have swallowed something highly picante.
And it mixes well with a splash of lime juice.

Pomegranates, according to the Cambridge World History of Food, came from Iran and the Caucasus. Elizabeth Lawrence, in "A Southern Garden"talks about it as an ornamental, and never mentions its fruit. She knew someone who grew a pomegranate tree in Northern Virginia for many years before a bad winter killed it.

I have only one cookbook with more than a passing mention of pomegranates- "A Taste of Persia" by Najmieh Batmanglij. The Iranians use it in fish dishes, soup, jelly ,and eggplant salads.

But what a shame its juice is so expensive. I think it is a nectar of the gods.

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