Curious learning not only makes unpleasant things less unpleasant, but also makes pleasant things more pleasant. I have enjoyed peaches and apricots more since I have known that they were first cultivated in China in the early days of the Han dynasty, that Chinese hostages held by the great king Kaniska introduced them into India, whence they spread to Persia, reaching the Roman Empire in the first century of our era; that the word ‘apricot’ is derived from the same Latin source as the word ‘precocious’, because the apricot ripens early; and that the A at the beginning was added by mistake, owing to a false etymology. All this makes the fruit taste much sweeter.
– Bertrand Russell ‘In Praise of Idleness’ in In Praise of Idleness, and Other Essays (New York: Norton, 1935).
If you have a fruit bowl, even if it holds mango and pomegranate rather than apricots and peaches, you have a start on dessert.
We use a mandolin to slice apples and pears, having cored them first. We use a knife to halve grapes and blueberries and a juicer to reduce oranges to liquid and pipless pulp. Add some scoops of fresh persimmon, passion fruit and a golden kiwi taken by spoon. Maybe a score of cherries, crudely stoned by hand. And use lots of pomegranate jewels and sludge from the mango.
And all dropped into a mixing bowl to be dusted with freshly ground coriander and cardamon seeds together with a wing or blade of star anise.
The fused glass bowl was made by Dave at Avening Glass Art from whom we bought it at the ‘Cotswold Edge’ exhibition in the Great Oak Hall in Westonbirt in 2019.
The mandolin came from a currency crisis shopping trip to Northern Ireland over twenty years ago. I recall the shop in Newry because sterling had plunged to reach parity with the euro and I was being paid in sterling at the time. The corer was bought in London a few years ago. The mortar and pestle were ordered online perhaps three years ago because we needed a bigger one for more efficient crushing of chillies and star anise, though not together.
We have a thick, very heavy chopping board acquired on a whim from a kitchen shop in Windsor, something we could do because we had arrived by car – you’d have struggled to carry the board on a train let alone walk to and from stations. The wood comes from a tree whose history was attached at the time of sale but lost in the intervening years.
The fruit has come from around the world, the spices too. You might not like the food miles, the ship journeys or the flights that damage the ozone layer. I’m not sure I do either but when this mess of fresh fruit and spices is topped by a spoon of Greek yogurt or better yet, creme fraiche, we celebrate the wonders of the world for a brief interlude in its destructions.
Somehow ‘All this makes the fruit taste much sweeter.’
There’s no reason to exclude the pineapple, apricot or peach but somehow, banana just doesn’t work in our Russell Fruit Salad.