Fruit of toil


Sunday evening. Sitting at the kitchen table, just me and a bag of fruit. Yup, it’s the annual me/quince standoff. We have been left alone together by a household of partygoers and touring actors – something of a reversal, because up to now I’ve been the one out gallivanting. Which is why the quinces have been left until now.

They were a present from my trip down to Kent a couple of weeks back, and one of the reasons they’ve been living in the bottom of the fridge, besides my absentee lotus eating, is guilt. Laziness also plays a part – they’re a bugger to chop and peel – but guilt edged it (ha!). See, usually my kind Kentish friend presents me with a big bag of fruit when she comes up to London. But because I was heading down for a visit, I was encouraged to gather them for myself.

The tree looked like something from a fairy story – about 15 feet high, leafy and covered in beautiful, golden, disproportionately fat fruit. We circled for a bit, considering where to place the stepladder, hook the umbrella etc when I had an inspiration – shake the tree! It was only young, quite pliable looking, and I thought maybe I could dislodge some. I gave it a tentative go and four fell off. My hostess went to get a bag and I rolled up my sleeves, went to work like Samson pulling down the temple and flinched as they thud-thud-thudded down all around.

Silence fell. I unscrunched my face and looked at the lawn, which was covered in quinces. Shit! Just about the whole sodding lot had come down! Hostess would be back in about 15 seconds. Should I just stuff a load into my pockets before she came back? Useless – quinces are enormous, and there were so bloody many of them I’d hardly make a dent in their numbers. Plus I wasn’t sure that that wouldn’t look even worse: the suddenly denuded tree, me wearing a misshapen coat and a sheepish expression and trying to whistle insouciantly. Hostess has beautiful manners, so assured me that she’d already taken all that she needed, so back I rumbled, blushing, to London with my ill-gotten gains rammed into my glandily distended overnight bag.

Adding to the rich stew of greed-guilt is a healthy seasoning of inadequacy. Last year I bought a food processor, yet still couldn’t get my head around making quince cheese. This year I toyed with the idea again, as I do every autumn, and, as I do every autumn, gave up on it. Also as I do every autumn I gave half my winnings to my friend Proficient Amateur Cook, a yearly ritual that never fails to make me feel a bit more rubbish than before. And bugger me, if it hasn’t happened again. PAC combines a punishingly long working day with a punishingly long commute, and yet has STILL had time to turn out a batch of quince paste within around 25 seconds of taking delivery. How? How?

Mind you, between writing this and half watching the Downton Abbey finale with the partygoer who’s missed the whole series [‘Who’s that? Why aren’t they married?’ ‘What happened to the baby?’] I’ve invented a new dish. It’s called stewed quince with ice cream, and it’s bloody top gear. Fancy foreign membrillo? Pffft.


One Response to “Fruit of toil”

  1. Great story! Hope you enjoyed the quince – tough to prepare though…speaking from experience 🙂

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