It is not October (I know) and I should not be writing about the humble, mis-shaped, freckled, warted and forgotten fruit of quince. I should be summing up the Christmas, show pictures of ethnic food and share quirky details of immigrants celebrating the birth of Jesus far away from home.
But today was the day I had finally cleared my fridge of leftovers and mustered enough courage to start cooking simple food again before we start another feast, and I am not joking, because half of our family is Christian Orthodox and their (our?) Christmas Eve starts tomorrow evening.
Anyway, back to the quinces…This past autumn trip to Romania has brought it all back – my father talking to me about the quince trees that used to grow in every vineyard. He run around those trees with his brothers, take shade under them and enjoy the sweets he had saved in his pocket whilst waiting for his parents tending the grape vines. Not ready to eat when picked directly from the trees they enriched the October landscape with their distinct yellow shapes. Their scent gave off as they caught the autumn sun and, of course, they were the last fruit of the season – picked when birds feasted on the cold berries that did not make it into the wine.
Bucharest maybe call itself a metropolis but its suburbs are intertwined with rural dwellings sitting comfortably next to modern homes. On our way to metro station, quince trees were everywhere and I regretted not having my camera to capture this odd flashback where urban and rural lifestyles feel so close.
Of course I have since discovered that Romania is one of the few countries that still massively uses the quince in both sweet and savoury cooking and that many artists around the world, including filmmakers have long been fascinated by this seemingly ‘mundane’ and not very ‘perfect’ looking fruit. Some people still use it to refresh their shelves and windows to wane off smells and insects. And many like it for its jelly making properties, used in conserves and chutneys.
And so on this perfectly bright but chilly day between the two Christmases I too made a good use of the quince conserve brought from Romania spooned over oat and apple pancakes born out of desire to eat a desert that sounds a bit more healthy before the feasting starts again!