Monday, December 26, 2011

Pin It

I’ve Never Eaten Paw Paw

I wrestle daily with a neurological disorder called aphasia and, despite my best intentions, the utterances that spill from my lips are not always what I intend. Though individual words or short phrases may elude me, I do weigh my sentences before speaking aloud. The same cannot be said of all my friends.

John Audubon's 1820's depiction of
yellow-billed cuckoos and paw paws
[Note: If you’re offended by crudeness, I suggest you move on to other, more anodyne stories, perhaps about black-crusted chocolate pie or old-timey boiled cider.]

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:


Anonymous said...

Bhuddha's hand gets my vote. Bought two at the store this year, first I'd ever seen them in MN. Candied them for my yearly fruitcake, and saved some of the sugar syrup for drinks. Way better than any citron you can get in any store-tasted awesome and made the house smell great.

Plus the coolness factor of them over anything else wins hands down!!

Matthew Rowley said...

Agreed 100% about the Buddha's hand. They're still enough of a curiosity that strangers will just start asking questions in public if I carry some around, but they grow easily in these partds and show up in farmers' markets and, occasionally, WholeFoods.

We also candied some this year. I wrote about it here with some photos You're absolutely right about keeping the syrup, too. We used it in cocktails and tea for weeks before we moved to a new house and dumped the remainder of the batch. Next Fall? We'll have more...

Tiare said...

I wish i could get a few of these! i have never ever seen them here though...

Matthew Rowley said...

I'm pretty sure that these don't grow in Sweden, Tiare. However, they do grow in the American Midwest and East of the Mississippi River fairly commonly. There are many cultivated varieties, but I still don't know of any commercial producers; you're more likely to find them either at farmers markets or off foraging in the woods. However, if you're heading to New Orleans this year for Tales of the Cocktail, it might be worth sending inquiring e-mails to see if someone could secure a few for you.

Unknown said...

Got them around here.
The Native Americans planted a lot of them in the East as a fruit tree and food staple.
Problem is they ripen fairly fast and don't travel well as a commercial fruit so not a lot of trade in them.
I'll keep my eye out for some but Tales is probably a bit early for them to be ripe.
You can get the trees easily enough ( you need two) but doubt if you could get then into Sweden by mail - but worth a try.