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  • Writer's pictureJennifer McIlvaine

Rotten Fruit & Other Autumn Delights

There's not a lot of middle ground here in Italy, things tend to be pretty black and white: you are Italian, or you're not; there is only the pasta of "mamma" or Vissani; you are sporting the latest Fendi bag, or you're not; there is Alberto Sordi. there is Benigni. there is Ferrari. punto. punto. punto... And so it goes with fruit: they like it underripe and hard, or practically rotten with flies swarming. For example, last summer I worked on an agriturismo with a woman who would only eat the quasi-rotten figs that the birds had already started pecking at. This summer, at my local fruttivendolo, there were always 3 bins of tomatoes: green ones, perfectly ripe ones, and split overripe ones. The green and split tomatoes were always sold out first, leaving the perfect (in my opinion) tomatoes to me and the late-comers. Why??? Because Italians don't like to eat tomatoes in their peak perfect ripe state (like us americans). For eating, they prefer their tomatoes a little green and very firm. For sauce, obviously, the overripe, splitting tomatoes will work just fine. The others...middle ground...left for me. The other day, I almost got in a fight with Fede because he was eating the hard, underripe pears (as he had done with peaches and nectarines all summer) instead of the ripe ones (which were, by the way the best, juiciest, most delicious pears I've ever had - why on earth would one choose to eat them hard and flavorless?!?!?) That brings us to fall delights: persimmons and pomegranates. I was scolded for buying pomegranates that hadn't split open. Yes, in this mode they are very sweet, but also, I think a little flat. I like a little tartness in a pomegranate - somewhere in the middle... Persimmons, or kaki, as they are known here, are maybe the perfect representation of Italian culture. There are two types: Vanilla, which is yellow and always eaten hard; and the regular, orange variety which is always eaten after it splits and starts to ooze (let me tell you, it is not easy to get these things home in one piece!). No middle ground here - last year I ate a less-than-oozing persimmon and my mouth felt like it was turning itself inside-out...a "grey area" gringo allergic I said - its a black and white kind of place.

Originally posted November 2007

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