My personal history with the almighty pomegranate goes back to my childhood. I vaguely remember Dad teaching us to cut across the head, where the crown sits and then make incisions down the five sides of its body so that the fruit can be cracked open without the seeds bleeding profusely from the pressure. Pomegranates are known to stain and it doesn’t take much to puncture the seeds for them to let out their bright red juice and threaten to spot everything in sight.
Your clothes, the walls, splashback, the bench, and chopping board, are all easy targets in the process of extracting the ruby seeds. Fortunately, the stains come off if you tend to them before the juice dries.
It takes real patience to gently remove the seeds from the white spongy parts. You find that there’s always more seeds and more corners to the pomegranate as you get deeper into it. The seeds are said to be best put into a bowl from which you can spoon them out and eat with delight.
However, this is not the best way to eat a pomegranate if you want to receive its full blessings in the form of flavour and nourishment.
I always had the patience to get every last seed out before succumbing to the temptation of eating them with the skin. My mum would never need a bowl or a spoon. She’d eat the seeds as she was peeling and opening the fruit. Some, like my dad, would say this is the wrong way to eat a pomegranate.
For a very long time, I didn’t have to worry about the right or the wrong way. I didn’t eat pomegranates for many years. Too much trouble you see. When I arrived in Australia, one of the things I couldn’t find was pomegranate molasses (nar eksisi). To solve the problem of making my special salad without this vital ingredient, I bought a pomegranate, patiently separated all of its seeds, and put it in the salad. The seeds gave it a nice crunch and a pop of sourness.
Soon my Turkish salad was famous within my Australian family. My brother who saw the pomegranate seeds in my salad felt the need to introduce me to a hack. So apparently, if one opens up a pomegranate and whacks it on all sides, the seeds simply fall off.
Why had I never thought of that?
The beauty of the colour red was brought to my attention a couple of years ago and it woke something in me. Inspired, I started doing my nails red to honour my femininity – which is easily forgotten when one feels more like a milk machine or a domestic automaton during the early years of motherhood. When I think about the pomegranate, with her intense colour, a crown on her head and the many, many delicious seeds she holds within which reveal themselves to those who dare to open her up, I can’t help but think this is what she whispers:
“You are a queen. Don’t give up the seeds of your wisdom to those unwilling to do the work. You’re not sickly sweet. That’s what makes you complex. Different. Unique. You’re not for everyone. Know your worth.”
Like all women, I am pomegranate personified.
There are days when I open up and it’s messy as hell.
I don’t splash red juice and stain white shirts, but I do cry and invite my partner to explore those messy things we call emotions. Before I invite him to explore his emotions, I have to experience them within myself. This is hard as I’ve been cut off from them for too long for having grown up in a society with a limited emotional palette. In the U.S. (and I think also in Oz, though here people are more centred so you don’t see as many fake smiles and fake friendliness) you’re either joyous and popular or a depressive loser that no one wants to be around. The pressure is on being a beam of sunlight, of course.
Ha! Not always possible!
Not by anyone.
And it’s no good feeling even more shit when you can’t be a ray of sunshine 24/7, 365/366 days of the year. For f*$k’s sakes, it’s not what Mother Nature intended. A day isn’t 24 hours of sunshine, unless you’re living on the Poles during the summer season (and there’s a reason why not too many people live in those parts).
If, as a woman, I can’t explore my own emotions and cry every once in a while and not be ashamed of it, how the heck are blokes who are conditioned to never show emotion, feel safe to own the fact that as human beings they too have feelings?
When was the last time I cried? You ask.
That was the day (April 18th) I got back from Istanbul. It was the dead of night and I’d discovered I forgot my laptop (the very one I’m typing on now) at the airport. I felt like I lost my identity as a writer. I also felt the cold and dark of the night and my exhaustion from the travel. My two girls cried because, after two weeks in the warm cocoon of our family in Istanbul, we were now strangers in our home in Australia.
It was messy and dramatic but necessary that I cry. I healed little by little and warmed up to my home over the next few days. It took a night of being by myself and gazing at the beauty of the full moon, and now I am home.
I thank the pomegranate and choose to feel everything, acknowledge every emotion, and to explore them with the one who’s worthy of the seeds of that emotional labour. I also know that while the seeds are the best part, a pomegranate ain’t seeds alone.
Honouring the Spirit of the Pomegranate
A few days ago my two girls helped me discover how to really enjoy a pomegranate. These days, there’s no time to pick out every seed and place in a bowl to spoon out later.
My brother’s lifehack didn’t work for me.
Not all the seeds separate easily from the skin simply by whacking the fruit. If you want to reach the less ripe seeds which hold a zap, you have to get your hands dirty to pick them out.
I cut off its head and before I could get too far, the baby started crying. Then the toddler started jumping off the sofa. After comforting the girls, I realised there’s only one way to eat the pomegranate.
I chewed it off its peels, each time eating bits of the bitter skin. The sweet and the sour of the seeds and the bitterness added on top made it all the more delicious. I realised how spooning cleaned seeds or drinking just the juice never gives one the full experience of this noble fruit. If you want to honour the spirit of the pomegranate, eat it how it wants to be consumed. As a whole fruit. Its seeds are not the whole pomegranate.
Just as you can’t hack a pomegranate, and avoiding the bitterness never fully satisfies and shortchanges you of the nourishment you’d otherwise get, you can’t avoid the bitterness within yourself, in relationships and consequently, in life.
So embrace it.
Over to you…
What were some shortcuts you tried for getting quick results without consulting your own feelings? Were the shortcuts helpful in giving you any change in the long term? Do you think it’s possible to make a permanent change in your life without acknowledging what your emotions may be telling you?
Artwork entitled “Eating a Pomegranate” by visual artist and writer Hae-Lyun Kang, who explores much emotional terrain in her work for which I’m grateful.