I am a natural alliterator: that is what my English teacher at school used to tell me. She thought that I had a brilliant career ahead of me as a writer. In grade 10, she took me aside, and conspiratorially told me what she would like me to start doing: in the place of writing essays about the rather pedestrian topics she would give the entire class: you know the kind: where one has to write about the just past holiday or some such, I had another option. Then she gave me a book, with black and white photographs in it, and opposite, on each page, a space to write the beginning of a story. I would, from then on, write about those pictures. It remained our secret. Whenever she wrote topics for essays on the blackboard which was green in actual fact, I felt a perverse thrill: I did not have to write about any of those. Strange though it may seem, I felt simultaneously anxious: what if anyone found out that I was being treated special? I already was a little bit of an outsider. The slightly odd, loner of a child who always had her nose in a book. I loved writing then. And I credit her with recognising that. And encouraging me. And giving me invaluable feedback. And believing that I have some special gift.
This memory was evoked this morning as I walked by the row of persimmons on my kitchen counter: slowly slinking towards just the right degree of decay. They were offered to me, a gift from my husband-to-be’s ex.( She refuses to be called that: his “ex”, I realised when I lightheartedly referred to her as such at a dinner the other night where she was invited to.) The persimmons are grown on the farm, a kind of a co-op, where she lives in Grahamstown with her poet husband. She is a poet too, and the mother of my lover’s son.
My introduction to persimmons was through an ex husband of my own. In fact, the ex through whom I met my current husband to be. Not as complicated as it sounds, but certainly a bit of a conversation point often when we have to tell how we met! I did not take immediately to that strange orange tomatoey-slightly-slimy-when-ripe fruit, feeling squeamish about the idea that it is almost rotten when eaten. But now, years later, when I buy them or receive a gift of them, I line them up on my window sill, or kitchen counter as they are at the moment, and wait. I have even written a poem about persimmons given to my fiancee by his ex, on a previous visit, a couple of years ago. He gave them to me, watching me eventually eat them: scooping out the soft sweet flesh with my fingers: not squeamish any more but loving the unusual texture and taste. I have not found a way to put it in a recipe. I think I probably prefer to have it on it’s own.
Unlike parsley. Parsley came up for me, in my alliterative mood, when I saw the row of persimmons this morning, and as I swept off flecks of parsley left on a chopping board from last night. I always have parsley in the fridge. But there was a time in my life when Italian flat leaf parsley was as exotic as persimmons to me: I grew up with only the curly leaf variety, mostly only ever as seventies style garnishing for cold meat platters and sometimes chopped up into a potato salad. In my eventual adult life, having expanded my culinary repertoire, I have grown italian flat leaf parsley successfully in a number of gardens. I will eventually have a big clump of that here too. We have recently moved here and my herb garden is not established yet. I always have parsley. I sometimes have persimmons.
Pedestrian parsley, precious persimmons. In my kitchen. Perfect.