The first time I held a pomegranate was this past year at a London produce stand. It was October, and I was sick of eating apples. A crate full of pomegranates loomed in my peripheral vision, teasing me to be adventurous.
Despite the fact that I didn’t know exactly how to choose a ripe one, I picked through the pink mound, looking for one that seemed above average. The only model of a pomegranate I could think of was from a painting. Printed in a mythology book I spent way too much of my childhood reading was an image of Persephone, the Greek goddess, clutching a blushing pomegranate. This was all I had to go on, and none seemed to have that oil painting glow.
I finally settled on a heavy, evenly fuchsia bulb. It’s not often that I feel buyer’s remorse for a piece of fruit, but as soon as I pulled the pomegranate out of my canvas tote and put it into a bowl, I felt a swell of regret. I didn’t know how to cut one open, much less what to do with the fillings.
I’d always thought of pomegranates as exotic. For me, they were the kind of fruit that flavored body lotions, not salads.
I have a tendency to decide that certain foods are just not for me. Either I think a food is too tricky to cook with, or I have a vague notion that I tried it once and didn’t like it. More often than not, I just don’t like to mess with my routine. It takes a long time to outgrow the identity of a picky eater.
But recently, I figured out a way to get around this fear of new food: ease a single ingredient in slowly. I resist the urge to run down to Trader Joe’s and fill the pantry and fridge with all new things. With limited time to experiment with cooking during the week, I try to focus on one foreign item in my kitchen at a time.
It’s strange to think that pomegranates kicked off this newfound interest. I think the relatively labor-intensive process of getting to the tangy little beads must have had something to do with it. I got over my feeling that I’d made a flippant impulse purchase after a good amount of Googling and watching videos on YouTube. It didn’t look so hard. Besides, I’d always had a penchant for cutting and chopping, growing up the sous chef in a house full of more creative cooks.
I liked the feeling of carving through the ridgy skin, experimenting with different methods to minimize splatter. There’s a weird, almost primal satisfaction that comes from splitting the pieces apart to reveal the gems attached to the magenta tinged honeycomb.
Now that I’ve stained more than one cutting board with pom juice, I have a knack for deseeding. I like working with my hands to pull out the seeds, pile them in a bowl and watch them glitter as I rinse them. Now I understand why Persephone was tempted by Hades to eat a few seeds. They’re irresistible.