Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fear of Fruit

To the great amusement of friends and coworkers, I seem to have a fear of fruit. It's not that I don't like it, on the contrary, I love fruit, but I can't stand pips, seams, pith, soft blemishes, surface imperfections, sticky juice and stems. It takes me a long time to prepare fruit in the exact way that I enjoy it most and by the time it's in that state there sometimes seems little point. I thought that that the root of this pickiness lay in the hands of my father, who was determined to pass on his love of fruit picking to my brother and I when we were young. We'd be minding our own business in the back of the car, perhaps reading, maybe having a little squabble when suddenly my dad would veer to the side of the road and we'd be ushered up to some hedge, empty yogurt pots in hand. We weren't just expected to pick the plump little clusters of raspberries or blackberries that hung heavily from the brambles- we'd be expected to enjoy it.

You've got to take a step back here and look at my dad's childhood. He grew up in Nova Scotia and every summer, his two brothers and him would pack up their trunk and take the journey up to Cape Breton where they'd spend the summer working and playing on an uncle's farm. Hay rides, tractors, freshly cooked pies. Laughter, singing, ice-cream eating competitions and inevitably, fruit picking. So it's not so much that my dad was looking for free labour from my brother and I, it's not even really that he wanted the was the experience he was after. Not for him, for us. The problem was that when dad was a little boy, he was a little boy. I however, was a little girl, and whereas little girls might like fruit pies, or crumbles, or warmed berries on top of ice-cream, they do not like spiders, wasps or those wiggly white worms which are the stark reality of fruit-picking.

I'm fascinated by how the experiences in our lives shape us and I love the dawning of realization when, after observing some odd behaviour in oneself the light breaks with sudden realization about where the weirdness stems back to. I can't look at a blackberry without thinking of those little white wrigglers and all my adult life I've been blaming hot afternoons in roadside hedges for my fear of fruit. Until one day, after my second child was born when my mum, visiting from England pulled an apple out of her bag for me. I was about to ask if she could cut it up but she beat me to it, producing a little knife with which she neatly cored and sliced the apple. Then she checked each piece, cutting out a few seams........and next she looked up and down the skin of each segment nicking off a little piece here and there while it dawned on me what i was seeing. "What?" she asked at my amazed face. "I'm just cutting it up for you how I'd want it myself.

I watched her closely that visit and learned why I put butter on oven chips, why I have to pack the car a certain way, why I wash and pat dry a chicken before I cook it and why I eat my food in a certain way on my plate. It made me wonder how many hundreds of other things I did unconsciously that I'd learned from her and it made me wonder what oddities I would teach my children and I vowed that I'd try, just a little to be more tolerant with fruit.

Two weeks later we were preparing a family dinner at my dad and step-mums and she asked me if I'd do the roast potatoes but my husband, M quickly volunteered so I ambled off to do something else. Returning to the kitchen some time later I heard my step-mum thanking M for doing the roasties and he replied "It's better this way....have you ever seen a potato after Eleanor's finished with it?"

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