first kiss : concord grape sorbet

He kissed me, not a soft kiss, but a forced, hurried one, right between Period 4 and Period 5, we stood there in a secret rushed moment of youth, I, at the ripened age of eleven and him, a much wiser and older twelve, he kissed me.

And it was disgusting.

Utterly disgusting.

Not what little girls tucked comfortably away in their pink canopy beds dream about or are read to in tales of princes and peas where the kiss is The Event of Grandeur, ever so tender and complete and enveloping. The girl loses senses. Knees buckle. Long perfect blonde hair cascades between them. A tiny sigh is heard. And life as we know it is renewed.

This is what I had expected, what I’d been promised, in countless years of fairy tale grooming. And even though it was the seventies, an era where women proudly burned bras and demanded from men things that had never been demanded before, this little girl expected to swoon, blush, and feel whole and refreshed by her first kiss.

Instead, oceans of bubble gum grape saliva had infested my mouth. I’d always been a big fan of Hubba Bubba, heck, my sister and I nurtured our reputations based on the proud acknowledgement that we knew the guy who’d invented its unforgettable flavor, but, the critical difference was that I chose when to taste it and between Period 4 and Period 5 in the stairwell that day was not one of those moments.

My kissing mate misread my initial hesitation as a moment of shyness (one of many poor calls in judgement) and proceeded to plunge further into my mouth; his thirsty, clumsy tongue digging deeper and deeper in feign attempts of pleasure he swept my throat for tonsils, it seemed. And I fought this alien creature slivering inside me, eyes watering, mind spinning, I wondered why I’d been fooled into believing this would be the luckiest moment of my life (and with a sixth grader no less!) But instincts are uncontrollable things and mine kicked in after the initial moment of horror wore off. I ripped myself away from my self-appointed courter and, right there, between Period 4 and Period 5, on his Nike-clad feet (coveted shoes hard to secure in Venezuela back then) I spat, spat, spat that Hubba Bubba flavor in desperate efforts to remove the memory from mind.

I looked up to find a small ego staring back at me (for no one had used his toes as a spittoon before) and my eyes winced as my body moved away (wishing now I’d taken the main stairs and gotten a good seat at World Geography instead) and not a word transpired between us, two fallen lovebirds, both equally shocked by the action of the other, we drifted away leaving the stairwell with its memory and puddle of grape saliva.

Sorbetto di Uva (Concord Grape Sorbet)

(Gourmet Magazine, September 2009)

For a grape flavor you will want!

2 pounds Concord grapes (about 2 quarts), stemmed, divided*
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
Equipment: an ice cream maker

*Concord grapes are in season around early Fall. If you have none frozen and can't wait until October, you may use regular red grapes or replace the grapes with 1 container of Frozen Concord Grape Concentrate (reduce sugar to 1/3 in this case).

Purée half of grapes in a blender until smooth, then force through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids. Repeat with remaining grapes to yield 3 cups purée. Whisk in sugar until dissolved. Chill until very cold, 3 to 6 hours.
Freeze in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up, at least 2 hours.

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