Field Guide to Forbidden Food: The Pomegranate

img_0663I imagine that even if God hadn’t forbidden Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit, which we are assuming for the purposes of this post was a pomegranate, they would have gotten about three seconds into an attempt at gnawing their way through the leathery rind before ditching the high-maintenance nosh for something sweet and easy like, oh, say, apples. But the myth of the matter is that it was forbidden, special, somehow hyper-symbolic of both the simple knowledge of good and evil and the kind of knowledge that makes gods.

If you’ve ever gone through the lengthy and often frustrating process of getting the good stuff out of a pomegranate, you will likely already know that, high symbolism aside, at the very least it takes God-like patience just to endure the process of getting into the thing. I mean, honestly: who ever heard of waiting ten to fifteen minutes for about a half ounce of snack? But beyond that, there are a few other things in the preparation reminiscent of godly knowledge.

First of all, you’ve gotta lose the crown. If you are ever going to get to the fruit or that higher place, any sign of pomp or pretension must go. No divas here, no royalty. No vestiges of the flower of the life that was. No crowns for comparison with the crowns of others. Simple, title-less, humble, and ready. That’s how you start.

Next is sectioning; scoring symmetrical partitions into the rind; making order out of it; breaking it down into graspable pieces; cutting; wounding deep enough that the transformative water can get to the deepest part, but not so deep as to destroy the whole, at least not yet.

Then submersion. I know, I know, about nine hundred and twenty-three baptismal allegories sprang to my mind too, but let me stick to just this one: water makes the fruit pliable. It makes the sections come away one at a time and loosens the sweet seeds from the bitter flesh.

Now pulling the sections apart the treasure comes in clumps, clusters, and sometimes single grains. Every now and then you pop one into your mouth using your palate’s delight at the tart, uncommon flavor to drive you forward into finishing the separation, letting it whisper yes, it is worth it.

Finally, you strain the water and last bits of clinging flesh from the seeds, leaving them wet and sumptuous in the bottom of the bowl. You are hungry now, after the work, but the sensual burst of each tiny seed has you sated quickly. En masse these seeds don’t keep well in the dark, so you save a few for when your hunger rises again and the rest you plant to ensure future harvests.

If, as some suppose, the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit, this intimate and intensive process of extracting the sweet essence buried deep in the bitter body had to be the “benefits” side of the serpent’s infamously irresistible sales pitch.

This is the knowledge that makes gods: humility, submission, order, cleansing, release, joy, eternity.

-M.

What about you? What does the pomegranate symbolize to you?

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About M. Ashley

Essayist and poet, my work has been rejected by some of the finest journals in America. Fortunately, it also gets accepted from time to time and has appeared in equally fine journals such as Word Riot, Inlandia, Brew City Magazine, and SageWoman among others.. In 2002, I was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Vanderbilt University. For no good reason, I possess an unnecessarily dark humor which is why being third generation California Inland Empirian delights me so. My gods are weird. I once received $350 for writing a smartassed essay on “why the wise use of water is important in my daily life”. I am undoubtedly the Greek god Hermes’ special snowflake. I’m pretty sure I got into college via a series of fortuitous clerical errors. When I had to grow up and get a real job, I decided against it and stayed a writer. I have worked many odd—and I mean odd—jobs to support my habit: Commercial writer for country music hopefuls, resume massager, WalMart fitting room attendant and switchboard operator, telephone psychic.
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