My thumbs press into the tip of an apricot, splitting its rounded body in half. I place a bet with myself on which side the stone of this stone-fruit will stick to – will it be to the right or to the left?
An apricot is:
a small, soft, round fruit
with yellowish-orange flesh
and a stone inside
One half of the apricot cusps the stone. The stone nestles against the yellowish-orange flesh. The little spoon protected by the big spoon. Two halves fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.
While examining the apricot, I imagine it as a hollow shell – as if it were the shell of an oyster. Except, unlike an oysters’ shell, the apricot is soft and delicate. Oysters can be soft, too, but they are unlike apricots. Firstly, apricots are a fruit of the earth, not of the sea; secondly, we do not throw away the oysters’ pearl.
Here in so-called Australia, fresh apricots are in season during the summer months of November to January. Dried apricots are available all-year round. The seasonal quality demands a period of hibernation. A temporary death before bearing fruit.
God forbade Adam and Eve eating fruit from the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden. The serpent assured them that consuming the forbidden fruit would not lead to their deaths but to knowledge, granting them the ability to distinguish between good and evil, a status that gods reserved for themselves:
‘the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely
die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof,
then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods,
knowing good and evil’ – (Genesis 3: 4-5).
Caving into temptation, their disobedience marked the origins of inherited sin.
In a Portuguese poem Sou um guardador de rabanhos, translated to English as I Am A Shepherd, Fernando Pessoa wrote:
‘to think a flower is to see it, and smell it, and to eat a
fruit is to know its meaning.’1
to eat a fruit is to know its meaning
What is your meaning, apricot?
to eat a fruit is to know its meaning
I consume you, what will I know of you?
I sit with the apricot and resist the tendency for passive digestion, where sustenance is aided alongside superficial entertainment and doom-scrolling. Binge-watching and binge-eating is an erasure of nourishment.
Food is sacred. Food is historical.
I wonder, is regeneration karmic?
I think about the etymological and geographical contentions around the origins of apricots, how their historical roots are traced to trading along the Silk Roads.
Oracle bones dating back to the Sang Dynasty (c. 1558-1046 BC) were found to bear the ancient Chinese symbol for the apricot.2 Shoulder blades of oxen or the plastron of turtles were prepared and used for methods of divination, engraved with inscriptions for a foretold destiny. Engravings of something living against the remnants of something dead.
During Ramadan season, Amardine (a dried apricot paste imported from Damascus) is used to make a juice to break the period of fasting or to savour during the festive time after sundown. Translated into Arabic, amardine means “moon of the faith”.
Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre enjoyed apricot cocktails in the company of their friends in French cafes. The taste of the apricot also an elixir for existentialists.
American soldiers during the Vietnam War grew suspicious of apricots. They feared them as an omen. These men carried the fruits’ preserved, and supposedly jinxed, bodies into a warzone. Their suspicions grew from a series of coincidences. They started to warn against the consumption of apricots – especially around tanks.
The Romans, learning of the apricot during the 1st century A.D, dubbed it praecocum, the “precocious one”. In Latin, ‘precocious’ is coupled with the prefix prae-, meaning “ahead of”, and the verb coquere, meaning “to cook” or “to ripen”. Together, these terms form the adjective, “praecox”, meaning “early ripening” or “premature”. In the field of medicine, the word ‘precocious’ is coupled with the word ‘puberty’ – paired together as a medical term to diagnose early developments of physical maturity in children.
André Aciman’s Call me by your name disentangles the sweet and sticky histories of apricots and peaches – both different, but two of the same. A charged desire between an adolescent boy and a graduate student. A mediator of power between blossoming and early ripening.
Cum. Early ripening. Premature. Praecox. Cocks.
Where do you fit? Where do you belong? Who bears claim to your or(gasm)/igins?
You are divine moonlight. A social elixir. A source of magic that arouses suspicion. A malleable category to fulfil summer romances.
I was bound to a habit of fixating on my inherent duality. I imagined my own flesh, torn in half, examined in the palms of those who decide where the dividing line should be; locating where to make the slice, the incision, the clean-cut.
Which one of my limbs belongs where?
The safety of remaining a solitary stone falsely promised a protection from harm. I want to allow the flesh to soften but not bruise. The stone is a grounding centre. It is a gravitational pull. I am docked to a harbour.
I have a stone centre, a pearl. It will not be discarded.
1 Fernando Pessoa, I am a Shepherd.
2 Robert Spengler. Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the foods we eat, (2019).