Friday, November 14, 2008

Punica granatum

The sixteenth century Blessed John Licci’s life is a list of marvels and since his life went on for an inordinately long time (110 years), it is a long list. But it all began with crushed pomegranates. Absent a mother (she died in childbirth) John was raised by his hapless father who fed him crushed pomegranates. Or so says one of my sources. The source of all sources, Butler’s Lives of the Saints, does not mention the pomegranates, though the hapless father, the marvels and the longevity all figure.
Pomegranates figure largely in my family’s cuisine as well. The first things I knew about pomegranates were that they were messy to eat and delicious. The next thing I knew was that back in Egypt my grandparent’s cook in Mahdi cleaned pomegranates for my mother and every day after school my mother ate a bowl of perfectly removed pomegranate seeds.
Sometime after that I learned of Persephone (presumably in Edith Hamilton. Where else?) who was abducted by Hades, King of the Underworld. While she was down there she ate six pomegranate seeds, and because she succumbed to that sweet and sour delicious-ness she was condemned to spent six months of every year in Hades, while the rest of us got the seasons.
What do pomegranates have to do with John Licci’s longlived-ness?
Why do I insist that one must eat the white seed and not merely the succulent red flesh, believing as I do that this was the reason for Persephone’s half year sequestration?

1 comment:

Rebecca Rice said...

I, too, loved the story of Persephone and the pomegranates, but I never ate them as a child since there were many fruits and veggies that were too complicated and exotic for my mother to prepare(pineapple was another, as well as fennel and artichokes), and so she simply bypassed them in the supermarket, sort of like a European traveler who can't be bothered to set foot in Lichtenstein!

This is one of the many failings my husband deplores about me, since I have tended to repeat her foibles: rarely does a pomegranate or pineapple grace our family table.