Strange fruit is not just a beautiful song. Strange fruit is also what you might come across before Rosh Hashanah or Tu Bishvat on the produce stalls.
This past Rosh Hashanah, as every year, my husband and I didn’t host the second dinner. Shul services ending mighty late, and a huge lunch ending at about 6.45pm, we figure, how could we possibly face the prospect of dinner? The second night being the night when we make the blessing on a new fruit (SheHechyanu), instead of dinner, we look forward, just entre nous, to the perfect crust of bread, the perfect glass of wine, and the perfect new fruit, and call it a day.
G-d forgive me, please, if I considered, however briefly, turning the Shehechyanu blessing into a Meshaneh Habriot blessing (a blessing made when encountering bizarre and grotesque creations) upon cutting open my new strange fruit. I had mercifully (or conveniently? We’ll never know which, with the sixty- plus club, will we?) forgotten its name, but one of my readers, Meryl, has just provided the name: Horned melon. Thanks Meryl! And Yikes Meryl!
Let me attempt to describe horned melon to you:
It was by far the strangest looking fruit of the batch at the produce market that morning, and I thought, yay, the weirder your strange fruit the better. Bright orange-yellow, oval, no bigger than, say, a big apple, and studded with, hmm, how can I describe them politely, tiny udders ending in very bright points, shooting from everywhere, lending the fruit a somewhat menacing look, a natural deterrent even to an overzealous fruit lover crazy enough to come anywhere near it. Like me, I guess…. I decided it would be my new fruit for this year. I bravely cut it across its whole length, with the predictable mixture of anticipation and trepidation, on a 20/80 ratio, and of course it was the latter sentiment that prevailed: Inside were rows of long whitish seeds, saturated with a runny and viscous neon-colored green liquid oozing from everywhere, a sort of sci-fi fantasy, except here we were the actors.
Dare I taste it, I thought, and with one look to my husband realized the misgiving was global. Yes, we ate it, we brave Jews who like to do their mitzvot the right way. A salty, acrid, runny mess. Boy we were grateful for its reduced size (thank G-d for small favors!) and we were mighty glad when it was over!
Please G-d, if you ever send those Jews in the desert again, let them stumble on passion fruit, persimmon, cheremoya, prickly pear, loquat, jujube. Or in a pinch no fruit at all, just back to same old manna, but not THAT fruit! Oh, rest assured some prestigious and extraordinarily talented chefs – yes, that’s what it would take – are devising some insanely expensive dishes using that fruit: I just hope they peel it and puree it first, or I guarantee all bets will be off!