Life lessons from quince...and Kanye
Photo from Google images

Life lessons from quince...and Kanye

Shikha Kaiwar

When we moved to London, one of the first things I noticed (besides the fact that mask-wearing outside wasn't a thing, unlike my paranoid home of San Francisco) was fruit—everywhere. Crates and shelves and baskets gleaming with the most colourful fruits I'd ever seen in a not-tropical country. Radiant oranges, royal-violent plums, sanguine strawberries, beautiful blonde quince...and all in January?! What sorcery was this??

Not sorcery at all, in fact, but imports.

85 percent of the UK's fruits and vegetables are imported, a stark contrast to California, where due to its year-round temperate climate, nearly all fruits and veggies (450+!) are grown in-state; in fact, California supplies two-thirds of the United States' fruits and nuts. Growing up, that meant that nearly everything was local, save a mango here or a banana there. When I visited India, food was hyper-local, with everything grown in the farm adjacent to town or in our own backyard. Eating local was normal and nothing to write home about. (It still isn't, in my opinion, at least if you live in California.)

The other part about working in California restaurants is that seasonal eating is considered "real" eating. God forbid you make an apple pie in July or a blueberry cobbler in November, at least in my fine dining (aka snobbier, but hey it me) circles. It secretly baffled me because California had no seasons. I wore the same jeans/shirt/windbreaker combo every month (also because I'm not stylish).

It felt like we were trying to make seasonal fetch happen with these rigid rules of what to eat and when.

Seasonal eating indicated pride, prestige, and scarcity—so much so that when I worked at a restaurant called Quince (and its sister restaurant Cotogna, which is quince in Italian), our chef had deals with farmers to buy out their entire first crop of quince, so we'd always get it before any other restaurant in the Bay Area. Extra I know, but honestly such a power move.

While other restaurants were stuck in last season, I was arms deep in quince—sooo this season. I was stylish! I learned that uncooked quince is horrifically bitter and spongy (and traumatising if your colleague pranks you by telling you otherwise so you bite into it like a DUMMY). I learned that peeled, poached, and pureed quince is heaven because they're related to roses and taste like honey, fresh flowers, and spring.

Most of all, I learned that good things take work.

Taking a quince from inedible to edible isn't quick or easy. It's a tough fruit, often overlooked due to its knobby nature and unnervingly hard exterior. When I see them at grocery stores, they're in the corner, and I can't help feeling like the other fruits are judging them. Oh you can't be eaten straight away? Sucks to suck. But the joke's on all you other fruits cuz with some time and patience, quince has some serious flavour depth.

Which brings me to Kanye - y'all were wondering when I'd bring him up. For those not on Instagram, this past week he publicly and aggressively posted his concern for how his ex-wife Kim Kardashian is raising his kids when they're in her custody, and he called her out for actions like concealing the address of their daughter's bday party so he couldn't attend (he got the address from someone else and did end up going).

Whether you're on the gram or not, I'm sure you know that Kanye is...rough around the edges. He's brazen and polarising; in the world of celebrity fruit, he's a quince, often judged by consumers and colleagues alike on his opinions and mental health. It's not always unwarranted, and as my partner Orlando knows, I'm often exasperated with him as well (we live in a divided household about Ye, a debate for another day).

But watching the drama unfold this week,  I also saw that few were giving him a chance either. Divorce sucks, even if you're a celebrity. and wanting to take care of your kids is a deep, intense emotion. I watched my parents have the same exact fights (not in Instagram, thankfully), about how to raise my brother and I, and when one parent was or wasn't allowed to see us. Drama and judgement were everywhere, and everyone in our family felt alone, confused, and frustrated, with little support or empathy.

We all handled it it differently. I dealt with it by escaping to kitchens, cooking all the seasonal fruit California had to offer and eventually making my way to those crates and crates of first-season quinces. As I peeled and diced, I found solace in knowing that something ugly and tough can be simmered down and sweetened if you give it enough time.

So in a weird, relatable way even though I literally do not know this man at all in any possible sense, I wish the same healing for Kanye.

Life is hard; let's cook that shit down.

That color!

Because so much is imported into the UK, grocery shopping makes no sense to me—everything is available all the time. Am I supposed to eat food that wasn't grown locally? Am I allowed to eat fruits grown out of our season, even though it was grown in season somewhere else? All this to say, when I saw the crate of quince at the store, I grabbed all of them, and along with some of those crazy violet plums, peeled, simmered, and pureed them into this wonderfully aromatic jam. The plums give it a pop of color and just enough tartness to offset the added sugar. The quince is—well, you already know how I feel about it.

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