This humorous essay was inspired by Roland Barthes' Mythologies and attempts to match his style of writing and choice of material. For those of you who are not familiar with the 20th Century French social critic and pseudo-philosopher, the essay will have to stand on it's own humor, independent of that gained through farce.

The Pomegranate

Despite its feminine name and appearance, the pomegranate is actually the most masculine of all objects. More masculine, in fact, than it would be if it wore its true nature on its sleeve. We see that men who show their true feelings as readily as they feel them are generally regarded as "wimpy", "soft", or "buttery". To be a true man one must appear, as a stone, unmoved and steady in times of adversity, even if the soul is troubled by the storms of emotional agony. And so it is with the pomegranate.

The pastel magenta skin, so soft and pliable in appearance, is actually a tough and rigid shell. That which seems plump and malleable is actually firm and resolute. Squeezing a pomegranate to reveal its ripeness is as effective as squeezing a fish to judge its length. The fruit does seem a pleasing subject for still life paintings and the fruit-stand aesthetic, but I believe Dali caputured the veiled dichotomy of the pomegranate when he showed it bursting open and spewing raping tigers upon the innocence of the beautiful young supine virgin. It's true overbearing, even oppressive, nature is not revealed until the observer peers under-the-covers into the soul of the fruit.

The internal architecture of a pomegranate is an amazing testament to chaos theory. The structure, complex and compact, contains thousands of individual parts, of at least a dozen different tissues, mixed in an asymetric symphony of pulp and juice. The edible portion of the fruit is packaged as blood-red seeds folded on top of each other, separated by a foam-like divider. The fruit is built as a corn-in-the-cob, each cluster of kernals being wrapped around the others like a gvetching mother's hands. So well integrated are the pseudo-hemispheres that separating them is equivalent to taking apart puzzle pieces by yanking them sideways. And hence we can extend our metaphor for man, both difficult to break down -- both difficult to tear apart.

The initial incision into a pomegranate faces one with a formitable decision task. You see, with most fruits there is a single (or symmetric) method of cutting the fruit to acheive a desired effect. If you want slices, do this; if you want chunks, do that; a certain way around pits, seeds, etc. The inner chamber of the pomogranate, however, is completely unpredictable from the contours and colors of the protective skin. It's a blind item. Naturally one could not discern the inner workings of a grapefruit from the exterior either, but the structure is consistent from token to token, and heuristics can be followed. But the almost complete randomness of the pomegranate's organs makes any strategy mere guessing. Therefore eating this fruit is an exersise in spontaneity, which is generally regarded as a male virtue. No amount of planning or foresight could help one plan for the wrenched turmoil of the pomegranate's center. Only a random cut can pierce the viel covering the random structure underneath. One direction of cut, however, is decidedly undesirable to the fairer sex -- the one that severs the bud of the fruit. The bud of a ripe pomegranate appears at first entirely vaginal in nature: a bastian of fertility guarded by stiff lips and an air of mystery. But once severed, we can peer directly into the floral cavity to reveal a festering pit of death and rot. Quite simply, the anti-womb.

And there you sit, staring at the mesmerizing twists of maroon and (off-)white ready consume, planning your attack. But how to procede? The first temptation is to devour the luscious pellets in abandon, sucking dozens of them into your mouth at once. But this is a perilous strategy because each little kernal contains a yet littler pit. Nibbling each piece of pleasure individually would quickly overwhelm even the most resolute individual with teduim. The delicate balance of the yang of the meat and the ying of the seed resolves inevitably in a compromise requiring the even pacing of intake and, yes, ejection..

It could be argued that the manliest of activities is spitting. And if not the manliest, then certainly spitting is at least the least feminine of all human activities. And the pomegranate absolutely cannot be consumed without a certain amount of spitting. These seeds, which come tightly packaged in the sweet red meat of each bit, must be suctioned and cleaved away from the meat. Must be parsed and sorted by the tongue, and must be expricated by the consumer onto a napkin, plate, or (sans civility) the ground. And the jettisoning of a mouthful of seeds is often a less than graceful maneuver. The mimipits frequently stick to teeth, gums, and lips causing them roll down the chin and neck rather than shoot towards the intended target. When you next come across one of these dark-pink wonderments in the market, pick it up and hold it firmly in your hand. Imagine not the sweet taste or the complex and stimulting texture, contemplate the sound of constant spitting. Constant spitting and picking and flicking. Imagine the pile of half-chewed seeds resting in a puddle of saliva on your dish. That is the inevitable truth of the pomegranate, the manliest of all objects.

ALB 11-7-02

This little thing marks the end of the page.