NPR did a piece this morning on Paul Cezanne’s fruit paintings and it made me think about my relationship with fruit. In this post, I alluded to how much I love strawberries. What I didn’t mention was that I am kind of freakishly into fruit in general. I think fruit is delicious, beautiful, and kind of sexy.
There is nothing like biting into a white apricot and tasting that floral sweetness, feeling the soft flesh of it in your mouth, smelling the almost overwhelming scent. Or the creamy smoothness of a banana. Or the crisp pop of a ripe grape.
So, I get why painters used fruit. It is a total sensory experience. The smell, the juiciness, the flavor, the mouthfeel…
But, I am also insanely picky. And never so much as I was a child. I basically lived on peanut butter sandwiches (not peanut butter and jelly because I hated jelly).
I didn’t have a strawberry until I was 8 years old.
We had moved to a tiny town just outside of Plant City, which is also a tiny town. Plant City is mostly strawberry fields. Every year there is a strawberry festival, which is sort of a county fair with a strawberry theme.
Even to this day I love strawberry themed, well, basically, everything. I think they are adorable.
This was one of the poorest times of our lives growing up. So going to fairs and such was a rare treat. And the price of admission usually meant we couldn’t even buy anything once we got in.
One thing we could afford was going to U-Pick-It farms. We would spend the whole morning in a beautiful field, everything shimmering like jewels with morning dew. Sometimes there would be a thick fog and I would pretend we were the last people on Earth (which is something I still do).
In Florida there are plenty of fruit farms. We had done oranges many times (great for making fresh squeezed orange juice) and one time we picked 20 lbs of blueberries for $20. We had so many blueberries that I was sick to death of them long before we had made it through even half the frozen bags of them.
But this was our first time picking strawberries. We spent the whole morning pulling these bright red jewels off the tiny plants. I had already determined I didn’t like strawberries. I didn’t need to eat one to make sure. They looked gross to me.
It was back breaking work and by the time we had finished, I wanted even less to do with strawberries. In fact, it was fine with me if I never saw one again.
On the drive home from the field that day, everyone had plastic bags of their fresh picked spoils in their laps. They were taking huge bites and throwing the stems out the open windows. To hear them tell it, these strawberries were like heaven on Earth.
My siblings started taunting me. Telling me what a weirdo I was for not liking strawberries. It was so unbearable that I moved into the way back seat to get away from their ridicule.
And that’s when I decided to try one of these magic berries. I pulled a giant red one out of my plastic bag. I had to admit, it smelled good.
I looked around. Nobody was watching. I went to take a bite when I noticed something. It was completely covered in seeds.
Now, I was no dummy. I knew you couldn’t eat fruit seeds. Most of them were poisonous and all of them were inedible. So I dutifully started removing all the seeds.
After a few minutes, I began to doubt that strawberries could possibly be worth all this fucking work! How did people even eat them? It took forever.
In the middle of my endeavor, my older sister, W, looked back at me. I was so quietly absorbed in my task I had gone completely silent. I was focused. I would get every damn seed off that fruit if it took the whole drive home.
When she saw what I was doing, she shrieked with laughter. In a few seconds, the entire car was dying, laughing at my ignorance and idiocy. Of course you could eat strawberry seeds! Who had ever heard of picking all the seeds off? That would takes ages.
For a moment, I wanted to shrink away into invisibility. This wasn’t something anyone would soon let me live down. And they didn’t.
But you know what? That first strawberry; freshly picked, sun ripened, and seedless, was the best damn strawberry I have ever had.