Something that’s been making me itch all day


Such a little thing. But still. From this lovely work of verse that I reblogged this morning —

Not once does she hold out on eating the pomegranate, instead biting into it eagerly and relishing the juice running down her chin, staining it red.

I’ve been twitching all day at the thought that someone might actually try that.

No, not eat something while in Hell. I mean bite into a pomegranate.

Nobody who wants to keep their teeth bites into a pomegranate, whether they’re an immortal or not. The outside rind is not edible, is as tough as leather and can be quite thick as well. If you bite into one of these things with the expectation of something wet running down your chin, the odds are 90-10 that what you get won’t be pomegranate juice, and your dentist will be cross with you.

What you have to do with a pomegranate is tear or cut the fruit open (I say “tear,” but if you know anyone who can do that with their bare hands, remind me not to antagonize them in a dark alley) and then get the seeds out.

There are a few ways to do this. (a) Further tearing of the also-tough inner membranes and then stripping the seeds out in multiples: (b) picking them out one by one: (c) squeezing the fruit a little on the outside, to loosen things up a little on the inside, and then banging it hard on one side with a heavy knife-handle or some such over a flat surface, so that  the seeds start falling out. (I think I saw Jamie Oliver doing this once and made a mental note to try it the next time a pomegranate comes through the house.)

(B) works best for me. You pick the seeds out and eat them one by one. A pomegranate isn’t so much a fruit as a pastime, a way to spend an idle hour and think thinky thoughts. I wish I’d thought to pick one up to eat when we were in Greece that time: it would have had resonances. 

Whatever. The next time you’re in the houses of Hades, do not bite the pomegranate. If you want to eat a piece of fruit out of hand, ask for a peach or something.

(And one textual note to finish. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the best-known source for this story (and I think probably the oldest) says that Hades covertly gave the hungry Persephone “the sweet berries of the pomegranate”. Because, seriously, who would give a princess of Olympus a piece of fruit to eat without having prepped it first? If he’d offered her grapes, they would have been peeled.

In any case, the only reason this stratagem worked was because the seeds were so little that Persephone thought they wouldn’t count. …Or at least that was the excuse she gave her Mom. My money says she ate them because Hades had just finished explaining to her that if she stayed with him she could be undisputed Queen of one of the three realms of existence. And she — clever young divinity that she was — immediately realized how to finesse this situation so that she could, quite literally, have the best of both worlds. If she then claimed to the Olympians sent to fetch her home that “he pressured me into eating them”, well, they’d be predisposed to believe that anyway…)