I’ve been struggling lately, trying to reconcile my absolute love of all things fruity with the tremendous amount of sugar contained in most of what I crave. Sometimes I want a perfectly ripe peach, juice dripping down my chin as I eat it over the kitchen sink. Or a crisp, tart apple, fresh from the orchard and tangy on my tongue. When I was pregnant with my second son, I craved oranges. I was so obsessed with them, I’d have vivid dreams about them at night, and spent most of my waking hours trying to figure out how I could (a) get more of them and (b) how many I could eat before I made myself sick. You can imagine how my orange-dreams cut into my productivity.
But unfortunately, my desire for fresh fruit is never as strong as my absolute lust for the adulterated stuff. Jams, preserves, jellies, sauces, dried fruits, candied fruits, and any kind of paste – especially quince – just does it for me. I’m one of those people who goes to fairs and farmer’s markets and seeks out the homemade preserves. I’ll order a cheese plate just to get the fig loaf or the membrillo that accompanies the cheese. One of the best wedding take-aways I’ve ever received was two jars of freshly-canned fruit preserves made by the bride’s mom (thanks, mom of http://mbsartofcooking.blogspot.com!). Stunning blueberry-raspberry stuff. I felt guilty hoarding it instead of sharing it with my kids.
A friend who knows of my proclivities recently gave me a chocolate bar with candied orange peel in it, and when she inquired as to whether I specifically liked candied orange peel, I replied: “What’s not to like? It’s bitter and sweet all at once – like the best parts of the orange in one little bite.” She laughed and told me I’d hit the nail on the head.
So what is it about the stuff that I adore? I think it’s the concentrated essence of what makes the fruit taste like the fruit. And I can’t discount the zing of utter sweetness – like a fruity punch in the gut. In my mind, a fresh apricot tastes like an apricot. But a spoonful of good apricot jam tastes like a hundred apricots all at once.
So of course, when I go apple picking next weekend, I can guarantee I’ll be making many batches of apple sauce with the bounty I bring home. And some cakes, pies, and muffins for good measure, too.
What do you say? Fresh fruit or not?