Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Big Misunderstanding That Causes Winter

One of my great Southerner friends brought me a pomegranate from her grandparent's Alabama backyard, where they apparently litter the ground in much the same fashion as the oranges in Florida and grapefruit in Arizona, a problem I'm not sure is a problem. The tale of the pomegranate is one of my favorites, where the lovely Persephone is captured by Hades and whisked away to the underworld, sending her mother--who happens to be Demeter, goddess of the harvest and earth's fertility--into a deep depression. Well, Zeus just couldn't have this, what with Demeter all mopey all the time and the earth basically dying because of it, so he commanded Hades to return Persephone back upstairs. Unfortunately, this didn't happen until after she had eaten six pomegranate seeds and--a well known fact when visiting the underworld--eating or drinking down there means you stay down there. Forever. There are signs all over the place. So, Zeus had to compromise his demands for her return so as not to contradict The Fates, and Persephone was doomed to spend one month each year in the underworld for each pomegranate seed she ate. Which translated to Demeter's depression for half a year, every year. Which translates to this terrible winter we're about to face. But it does make it easy to remember when this delicious fruit is in season. So, not a bad trade-off.
ANYWAY, the pomegranate may seem difficult to deal with, but it really is quite simple. The gentle way is to cut it in half and coax the seeds out in a bowl of water, where they will sink and the foamy, inedible membrane around them floats, making it quite simple to separate them. I find a much quicker and effective method is to score the pomegranate about 6-8 times from top to bottom, cut it in half, and whack it on the skin side with a wooden spoon handle.
They'll rain out, and if you get stuck at all, just give the fruit a squeeze to loosen the seeds, and continue whacking it. No problem, and the seeds are delicious with yogurt and pistachios and honey, in savory braised-meat pasta dishes, or just by themselves. Special thanks to Hades, Persephone, and that little backyard in 'Bama for making it possible.