Thursday, August 31, 2006

On Ripeness..

I posted a quick blurb a few days back about eating wild fruit, and got a great response from my cousin Pete, a student of food who works in New York City restaurants. Long time readers (both of you) will remember Pete from stories I wrote during his visit to Hokkaido last fall. Pete is a great guy, his cooking is fantastic and even though he's only a few years older than me, his knowledge of what we eat and why is really impressive. These are Pete's thoughts on ripeness, which he allowed me to share "even though it's basically a paraphrase and endorsement of a book i didn't write."

Here's an excerpt, my favorite thought:

" Unfortunately ripeness has been comercially masked in america with waxes, colors, misters, etc. Americans have been trained to judge ripeness with the eyes. But anyone who knows and cares cares about food will use the sense of smell first, and next the sense of touch. How does the object feel in the hand? Even though the actual weight of a pear never changes, when it is truly ripe it has a certain weight in the hand that is beyond description. It is almost mystical because ounce for ounce it is still the same pear, but when it is ripe there is a certain gravity to it that it did not previously possess. It just feels right."

...and the whole e-mail below.


PETE ON RIPENING

people are confused (for good reason) about the process of ripening, what actually goes on, what chemical reactions take place, etc, etc, etc. i'm unfortunately unable to get too technical because i still have much to learn on the science end, but for example, pears will never ripen until they are picked. the same with avocados. apples will ripen on the tree but i believe they will get sweeter after a month or two hanging out in a cool dark place. the sugars in corn will begin to turn to starch as soon as the grain is broken. the same with sugar cane. pineapples will soften when picked but will never get any sweeter. grapes will. tomato plants need to be stressed to encourage proper ripening. melons ripen on the vine and should only be picked when the perfume begins to permeate through the skin. once a coconut falls from the tree it's finished, it has to be picked just before it's ready to fall. etc. etc. etc. and you also have to take into serious consideration the terroir, the age
of the plants, the weather, etc. etc. etc.

but unfortunately ripeness has been comercially masked in america with waxes, colors, misters, etc. americans have been trained to judge ripeness with the eyes. but anyone who knows and cares cares about food will use the sense of smell first, and next the sense of touch. how does the object feel in the hand? even though the actual weight of a pear never changes, when it is truly ripe it has a certain weight in the hand that is beyond description. it is almost mystical because ounce for ounce it is still the same pear, but when it is ripe there is a certain gravity to it that it did not previously possess. it just feels right. this comes with experience and time. if you are at all interested in this subject you MUST read "cooking by hand" paul bertoli. if you can;t find a copy i'll lend you mine. the section on ripening is some of the most intelligent food writing
i've ever encountered (not that there's much competition) and his chapter on balsamic vinegar almost brings tears to my eyes. his perspective is based on the way that europeans love and understand food, and i might go so far as to say that it's still the best. europeans have really just had it figured out for a long time. it about the whole cycle of life, birth, maturity,
ripening, and the inevitability of coming to an end. the bitter and the sweet. becoming all that something has ever been and will ever be for better or for worse. this is basically what he's getting at and it really mirrors our existence on this planet, our connection to the earth, and why love makes all the difference.

check it out if you have time
-pete

1 Comments:

Blogger dv said...

great stuff.

12:04 PM  

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