Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Apples of love

Introducing the latest in cheap, bulk veg acquisitions ($1 per kg at the Thornbury Vegetable Emporium),

Lazies and Gerbilmen,

I give you

El Tomato

and lots of it.

A fine figure of a fruit. The fire-engine of salad ingredients. The red under the bed of soup-substances (only preferably not under the bed). The scarlet woman of pizza toppings. The Pimpernel of pasta sauce colorants. The Little Red Book of things to squirt onto your white shirt just before your job interview. The prohibitive traffic light of salsa stuffs. The Red Sea of fruits best not confused with persimmons. Yes, viva el tomato!

For hundreds of years following its entré to European climes, the tomato was fêted by its fetishists as the
apple of love. This is all very well. If squelchy red fruits are your aphrodisiac of preference, who am I to judge? But what concerns me is this: if the tomato is the apple of love, where does that leave the apple? And what of the apple who - stranger things have happened - goes wobbly at the knees and falls strüdel over cider in love herself? Are such apples compelled to masquerade as tomatoes? Must they forsake their core identity?

The tomato's elevation as emblem d'amore is all the more sinister because time was when the apple itself was the apple of love. As all good fruit historians know, back in Elizabethan England (an epoch, clearly, wherein the virtues of a good wholesome sweat hadn't yet been obfuscated by a multi-billion dollar deodorant industry), lassies would keep peeled apples in their armpits, wait til the apples were mightily infused with maidenly perspiration, then pass them on to their equally aromatic beaux. The beaux would tentatively sniff, inhale deeply, inhale once again, and instantly swoon with a languorous ecstasy the like of which no tomato-fancier has ever known.

Elizabeth I's reign ends. Europe goes potty for colonising America. And next thing you know, in flounces the tomato and usurps the humble love apple.

Don't get me wrong: I think tomatoes are smashing. I really like 'em. They go down a treat with garlic and basil. But are they apples? And are they apples
of love? Here I must draw the line.


Karen said...

Tomatoes under arm pits! Ah, how we have cheated ourselves with this new-fangled modernity business!

And, of course, the apple is the true fruit of love, as anyone can verify when they cut it in half (had to be said!).

"Like the drink" said...

Apple has since gone from being a rite of passage for many a boy¹, and then the preserve of self-styled artistic types, to an increasingly socially acceptable lifestyle choice, an in-your-face badge of uncommon pride, and finally the symbol of flair over value-for-money² as it stands today.

¹In yon days of the 6502.
²Relative to what else is in the marketplace.

alexis said...

Yeah, LTD, I'd hate to see someone trying to check their email on a tomato.

TimT said...

When did apples become identified with the fruit in the Garden of Eden, I wonder? That would have been a renaissance thing, no - seeing as the relevant history is middle eastern, wouldn't the fruit originally have been something like persimmons? Also, when God promises Moses 'a land flowing with milk and honey', isn't that a rather odd promise? What's so grand about milk and honey? They taste nice, I'll grant you, and may taste even nicer when mixed together (smoothie, anyone?) but they're hardly the epitomy of luxury. Surely?

And what does Manna From Heaven taste like? I'd imagine it's like tofu, but I could be wrong.

alexis said...

Ah, you see, the thing is, the word "apple" has a long history of being more or less synonymous with "fruit", which kinda excuses the tomato's being called an apple, and robs this post of all its righteous indignation. Robert Eden, in a 1555 book about the New World, refers to the "Venemous apples wherwith they [the South Americans] poyson theyr arrowes."

As for manna, see Numbers 11:7, "And the manna was as coriander seed, and the color thereof as the colour of bdellium." Ah, yes, good old bdellium.

Karen said...

I was always under the impression that the forbidden fruit was an orange. I don't know where I'm getting that from, but I'm sure you can tell me, Alexis (I was raised as a Catholic, so I've barely read the bible!).

I think the tomato must be the Thornbury "apple of love" because if one was not a very good cook and/or was a penniless student and found oneself in the position of cooking for someone else, one would inevitably make spaghetti bolognese, although it might be a bit ambitious not to use a jar of something. Certainly, the raw and the uncooked variety holds more potential for the youthful imagination!

alexis said...

So far as I know, Karen, the Bible is entirely orange-free. Maybe you saw a Hieronymus Bosch painting of the Tree?

I don't do spaghetti Bolognese, on account of the minced cow content, but yes, there's no denying, tomati are cheap and versatile. As are apples, though. Come to think of it, I ate ravioli in Assisi, drenched with creamy apple sauce. Could spell the end for the tomato, if apples start taking over there.

Karen said...

I ate ravioli in Assisi, drenched with creamy apple sauce.

Oh Gosh, did you? (So envious of both the dish and the travel she can barely type).

I must be thinking of a painting. I've always thought of the pomegranate as the forbidden fruit too and I'm fairly sure that's artistically prompted.

I was a vegetarian for a spell as a child, much to my mother's horror (I was tall and rail thin and she was convinced I was going to become anaemic). Of course I still ate fish and chicken, as I was told that they don't have any feelings. Even now I'm not overly fond of red meat. I generally dislike beef and I only like lamb if it's been cooked well. I could not possibly give up the seafood though.

emmy said...

Plenty of Bibles in *Oranges however.

Manna from Heaven, Womanna from Hell.

*are not the only fruit.

TimT said...

A comedy of Mannas?

emmy said...

nobody said nothink in any bibles about apples. and as for their cut in half loviness - ever seen a pomegranate come undone?

emmy said...

sorry lexi, but really, i mean apples? apples?

emmy said...

just mean -assisi aside- toms are so much saucier. and i find it inexplicable that there could be an argument otherwise.

TimT said...

Q: What did the little bird say when it found an Orange in its nest?

A: "Look at the orange Mama-laid!"

emmy said...

and what did Papa have to say about that?

TimT said...

"Oh, great! My wife's just given birth to a Fruit!"

emmy said...

'tis a good thing fruit flies.

Karen said...

A pomegranate coming undone (if you scroll down).

I agree- Apples ain't got nothing on it!

Karen said...

Morris' pomegranates.

Imagine having that on your wall!

alexis said...

But try carrying pomegranates around in your armpits for a week.

Karen said...

I really must be slipping to have forgotten this one.

K (really likes paintings of fruit).

Karen said...

On second thoughts, I think this is the one that really sends me weak at the knees.

A fruit like that can be carried around any way it wants to be carried around, as far as I'm concerned!

alexis said...

"Pomegranate" derives from pomo granato: apple of garnet. Which is a beautiful derivation. The seeds are like perfect little garnets. And so acidic and sweet at the same time.

There's no denying the pomegranate is the queen of fruits, but I will defend the apple, on and on. I think they're lovely.

I'm surprised you folk haven't started going on about figs yet. Flowers on the inside: everything on the inside. Seam-splitting milky-rose sweetness. I'm sure there's a reason why figleaves served as the first knickers.

Karen said...

Oh! I didn't know that at all and it's so very beautiful! I've never actually had a pomegranate and I don't think I've had a fig that wasn't cooked as part of something. This conversation reminds me that I really need to explore some fruit (and to read some more Jeanette Winterson!).

Didn't know about the knickers either. You are a storehouse of lascivious facts!

alexis said...

Definitely eat a fresh fig or two. They're delicious. As are pomegranates, although they take a bit of work. You need to mine your way in through the woody rind, then dig out all the seeds, and decide whether you want to swallow them whole or nibble their tasty flesh off.

"Knickers" was a slight exaggeration. I just meant that figleaves (as you probably do know, actually) recur with suspicious frequency occluding the nether regions of Adams and Eves and Greek gods and so on.

A storehouse of lascivious facts? Me? It must be all those apples.

Karen said...

Yes, I was a bit confused about the fig thing, but I thought it must be right! Well, I wanted it to be right!

If I finish this bloody thing and actually send off the MS, I will reward myself with some figs and a pomegranate (and maybe even some Pimm's).