Love letter to a pomegranate

I don’t know exactly how to put this—pomegranates are my favorite fruit. They have been my favorite since the year I turned thirteen.

Formerly my favorite fruit had been mangos. Unfortunately for me, that was the year my father bought an entire case of mangos because they were on deep sale, which I proceeded to devour to the tune of four or five a day (moderation for me, always moderation). Apparently, it is possible to develop an allergy to something by massively overdoing it. A few days in, I developed a bizarre reaction on the lower half of my face—a kind of rash that stayed put and eventually turned dry and flaky and numb before finally disappearing. I laid off on the mango for a while, but months later, when I ate just one, the rash returned around my lips.

My favorite fruit was ruined for me forever.

So I decided that my second favorite fruit, pomegranate, would have to be moved up to first place. And this was more than fifteen years ago, well before the superfood pome-craze of the early 2010s.

It was a fruit deserving of affection, long before the pomegranate shampoo people got to it.


The Experience of a Pomegranate

Photo by Nathalie Jolie from Unsplash

Pick one up in your hands at the grocery store. It’s a richer red than most apples you meet, and larger. It looks from a distance to be perfectly round, but on closer inspection, it’s imperfectly round; it has a series of plateaus that combine to make a round whole. Your mind wants to register it as slightly shriveled because of that imperfect shape, but pick it up.  It has the shiny, firm, waxy skin to prove that it’s bursting with newness.

On top of the pomegranate (or actually the bottom according to the direction it hangs on the fruit tree), there is a crown-like structure. It looks like an extreme outie bellybutton that has stretched until it has burst.

Take this pomegranate home.

Bring it to your kitchen table and sit down with it. You’re going to be here for a while, so get nice and comfortable. Set a nice wide plate down as a workspace, and next to it a bowl that is beautiful enough to hold the royal fruit.

Get yourself a good scoring knife. Open the proceedings by putting one score around the exterior of the fruit. You may also hold the fruit with its bellybutton away from you and view it from above. You’ll notice that those misshapen plateaus are actually quite regulated; there are six of them. Instead of one score all the way around, you could make six scores down the sides of the pomegranate, on the ridges between these six plateaus, as if you were scoring the earth into sections that had pointy tips at the north pole and the south.

Your score must not be more than a few millimeters deep; maybe as much as a centimeter. You’re just trying to get through the waxy skin and perhaps a bit of the pulpy layer of “fat” just underneath it.

After the score, use your fingers at the bellybutton-crown to pry the fruit apart. It should come willingly. It is already given to separation within, though the system of pulpy chambers and the tough rind give it a stability and protection not to be rivaled by a custom Styrofoam packing system.

When you open it, your breath may catch in your throat for a moment. Perfect sheets, or hills, or mounds of pomegranate seeds lie packed within this system. Their color is the first thing that shocks you. You can see why poet who wrote the song of Solomon reached for these exquisite “cheeks” of untapped potential when he was describing his mate (“Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil…” Song. 4:3a).

Peel away the papery layer over the top of them, and begin to pop them—gently, gently, with the pads of your thumbs—out of their pulp-Styrofoam backing.

Individually, you’ll find that they look very much like brilliantly red kernels of corn. Bite one in half, and you’ll find that it is like a packet of juice, with a tiny seed in the center that delivers a crunch. Now—continue your work until the bowl is full. It will be not much more than a cup of seeds to one pomegranate. Each seed could ruin your shirt. If you have done your job properly, the bowl will be mainly dry, and the seeds will still feel like fresh corn kernels before they’ve been removed from the cob, not slippery to the touch in their own juice.

Photo by Samay Bhavsar from Unsplash

Take a spoon and dip it into the mound of seeds –actually these are “arils,” individual juice containers for the real seed. Take a full bite of them. Take your time in crushing the arils in one mouthful. This is, in my opinion, the best way to eat a pomegranate, although many like to let it last by fingering and nibbling just a few arils at a time. They are also delightful in salads, and combined with chocolate. But this here is my vote—the slow eating with a spoon out of a bowl that deserves to hold them.

Now, if this is your delight in the pomegranate, imagine God’s delight in it. He who designed the custom Styrofoam packing system to contain his pristine arils of scarlet juice. He who knows the chamber design in each of these globes before they are scored and cracked open.

Worship-worthy creative glory can be found, you see, not only on the macro level. It is just as astounding in micro form.

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