|John Audubon's 1820's depiction of|
yellow-billed cuckoos and paw paws
A few nights ago, a mixed group of friends gathered at our new house. When my family moved in, we inherited a dozen or so large trees that aren’t particularly interesting, well tended, or useful. Over drinks, the group kicked around ideas for replacing them.
Lemon, lime, and orange trees were obvious choices, given our climate and weakness for cocktails with a hit of citrus. I’m partial to the old idea of a gentleman’s orchard, one that holds fruit trees grown because they are exotic, unusual, or noteworthy for the region rather than strictly utilitarian. So we talked about Mexican and kaffir limes, Meyer and oily Femminello St. Teresa lemons, bergamot, Buddha’s hand citron, grapefruit, medlars, sour cherries, quince, guava, figs, and more. These are all just ideas at this point, nothing like an actual plan. When I threw out paw paw as a possibility — a venerable fruit tree of my native Missouri — one of the drinkers asked “Isn’t that the tree that smells like jizz?”
Frankly, I’d forgotten that aspect of the tree. I hemmed a bit. “Well, yes...I...I suppose it does. A bit.” I was trying to be diplomatic; the thing reeks of semen.
“Really?” another asked and then joked. “Does it taste like jizz, too?”
“I don’t know,” the first quickly answered. “I’ve never eaten paw paw.”
Three achingly full seconds passed in gravid silence before the room exploded into a pandemonium of howls while the blush of the paw paw virgin glowed like a California wildfire.
My friends are loyal, smart, kind, and funny, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But, lord almighty, they can be lascivious.
[Edit 29 December 2011: Prompted by emails from concerned friends, I should clarify that I myself have eaten paw paw. The fruit itself carries none of the aroma supra and, in fact, is a mild, soft and inoffensive fruit, similar in texture to the local cherimoyas. It can also, according to one old report, be fermented and distilled into a brandy. While this doesn't surprise me one whit, I've yet to have any paw paw brandy. Let's see if that changes in 2012.]
Goes well with:
- Pity Tits, a Guatemalan Handshake, and Why the Business is Awful, a bit I wrote about my aphasia and how I've learned to handle a willful tongue that's forever aching to do bad things.
- Princeton Audubon sells double elephant (e.g. life size) reproduction prints of John Audubon's 19th century renderings of the birds of America. The cuckoo/paw paw print above will set you back about $200.