still life with fruit

The Forelle Pears taunt me the most. They are small and turn brown the fastest, perched upon my gleaming Mexican blue tile, staring and ripening, day after day after day. I am up at the crack of dawn every weekday (the sage suggestion of an obviously-sleep deprived psychologist). It is supposed to by the hour to recapture myself, to bask in the quiet of the world, to make the kids’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without any interruption or distraction. I am promised a certain beauty and inner peace in the spreading of Skippy (non-chunky of course, I don’t know how clusters of nuts would fare in my therapy). Instead, I find myself mostly bumping into furniture pieces I haven’t moved in over ten years and sipping coffee, wondering why I am not sleeping with the rest of the world, where me, myself, and I would most truly like to be. And again, I see the pears. We become true enemies in the wee hours of the morning.There are so many of them, nestled amongst their friends: the apples (green, red, and yellow, because choice and variety is not only key, but a God-given right as an American), bananas, peaches and plums. They are all spilled onto each other and seem perfectly comfortable that way. Their message of health works better in unison. They seem to know that when they rot, it is more dramatic if they rot together.I buy my plethora of fruits every week. I buy them because They Are Good For Me and I Should Eat Them. I am a mom and this is my mantra. I tell this to my children almost as often as I breathe, and, quietly, when my under-ten sponges aren’t listening, I tell this to myself. I remember fondly the Tropical Era of my life, the time where I grew up comfortably in the lush and careful embraces of my South American childhood, a childhood that was shaded in so many wonderful memories, one of which includes plates upon plates of carefully diced, sliced, and sun-ripened tropical fruit. The assortment and availability was astounding. My house was embarrassingly overwrought with food and it always seemed to end with a plate of mango, pineapple or papaya. I dream of the life my husband and I tease each other we will soon have. It’s not as if the life we have now is such a terrible one. It’s pretty darn good. But in our Dream Life, help raising our two rambunctious children will be more readily available, the clock will run at a slower time, and, of course, fresh fruit will be sliced, diced, and chopped for us. These memories and dreams are so tightly knit with the fabric of fruit that I find it impossible to pick up a pear and eat it, so instead, I cling to my image of fruit offerings.But the truth hits me hard at 5:12 in the morning. The only person helping me out then is the newspaper delivery guy slamming my New York Times against my mini van and not in the murky puddle. (And for that I am truly grateful).The pears are still laughing. They seem to know me too well. For as much as I buy all this fruit, I never eat it. Instead, we share my alone time and stare at each other when the sun refuses to wake up. With each morning the fruit turns browner and browner and their glee seems to increase with my frustration. They are still there and I am still here. No tropical paradise, no fruit-filled platters being offered. Just me, a cold cup of coffee, and my victoriously rotting fruit. Like this we go on every morning until I finally give in and make a big, delicious cobbler out of them. It is the only victory I know and a perfect way to clear the fruit plate and start all over again.CLEAR-YOUR-FRUIT-PLATE CRISP6-8 medium sized old apples or pears or a combination1/2 cup dried cranberries or sour cherriesjuice of 1 lemon1/2 teaspoon lemon zestFOR THE TOPPING:3/4 cup all-purpose flour3/4 cup sugar1/2 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon cinnamon1/4 teaspoon nutmeg1/2 teaspoon ground ginger8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small piecesPreheat oven to 375 degrees.Peel, core and cut the apples and/or pears into 1″ chunks.Mix in a bowl and add any other fruit. Squeeze lemon juice over fruit and add lemon zest.Place fruit in a buttered 9 x 9 inch baking pan, a 12-inch oval gratin pan, or individual custard cups.Mix dry ingredients for the topping in a small bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives (or your fingers), cut the butter into the dry ingredients. The mixture should resemble dry coarse meal.Sprinkle topping over fruit.Bake until golden brown and juices are bubbling, 45 – 50 minutes.Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.Note: Let your imagination (and fruit supply) run wild! Any fruit with some citrus works great: raspberries, peaches, and blueberries. If you have frozen fruit you can throw that in as well. For a tropical twist cut up some mango and add it to the mix!Serves 6 -8

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still life with fruit

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