Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Where the Fruit Is"

This poem is spillover from the July 16, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] redsixwing. It also fills the "Baking / Cooking" square in my 7-1-19 card for the Winterfest in July Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Where the Fruit Is"

[Friday, August 1, 2014]

Shiv stared at Dr. Bloch.
"You want me to do what now?"

"Find me some volunteers,"
Dr. Bloch said. "Come on, I got
a great deal on a load of exotic fruit.
It's free food. Everyone who agrees
to try some will get easy points for
healthy behavior. All I need you
to do is invite a few guys who
might be interested in this."

"How many?" Shiv said.

"Between six and twelve,
including one guard,"
Dr. Bloch replied.

Shiv narrowed his eyes.
"You're asking me to go
pretty far out on a limb."

"Of course," said Dr. Bloch.
"That's where the fruit is!"

"Oh, fine," Shiv said.
"I'll ask around -- but
no guarantees."

"There never are,"
Dr. Bloch agreed.
"I'll see you at lunch
in the small dining room."

That meant Shiv had
to spend points just to get
into the social room where
he could invite people.

He asked Kincade,
Sanquez, and Verne
first, of course.

Then he asked
Largo, who was
always quiet and
would eat anything.

Shiv invited Dustin
and Wade because they
wouldn't make trouble.

He was running out of ideas,
and counting desperately on
his fingers, when Sanquez
tipped his head toward
Alejándro, and okay,
that made seven.

Mr. Vanburen wasn't
available, so Shiv asked
Mr. Bonaventure, who
bounced on his toes like
a little kid over the chance
at some unusual fruit.

That seemed kind of
weird, but then Shiv
remembered the spread
that Dr. Bloch laid out before,
so maybe it wasn't that weird.

By lunchtime, Shiv's stomach
was growling with anticipation.

Mr. Bonaventure collected
all the participants and led them
to the small dining room.

The small tables were
covered with baskets of fruit,
leaving just enough room
for people's plates.

"Those of you with
kitchen knife privileges,
please raise your hands,"
Dr. Bloch instructed.

Shyly, Shiv lifted a hand.
Kincade, Sanquez, and
Verne did the same.

"The rest of you,
spread out so that
you've got someone
to cut the fruit for you,"
Dr. Bloch said. "Let's go."

Shiv recognized mangoes
and dragonfruit right away,
so he grabbed some of each
and started chopping them.

"What the -- is mine not ripe?"
Verne said, looking between
Shiv's red one and his white.

"Nah, some dragonfruits are
red inside and some are white,
but they all got black seeds,"
Shiv explained. "They
taste the same too."

"There's another variety
with yellow skin and white pulp
that tastes sweeter," Dr. Bloch said.

The red was pretty good, though.

"Oh! Mamey!" Sanquez exclaimed,
pouncing on a dull brown thing. "That
is my favorite flavor of ice cream."

Shiv watched as he cut open
the rind to reveal bright orange flesh.

Alejándro chattered at Sanquez
in Spanish, reaching across
the table after the fruit.

Sanquez laughed and cut off
a piece for him, then passed
one to Mr. Bonaventure.

Shiv didn't dare to ask,
just gave him a hopeful look.

Sanquez handed him a piece too.
It tasted sort of peach-like,
with a hint of muskmelon.

Shiv demonstrated his skill in
peeling a mango, then gave
half of it to Sanquez.

Mr. Bonaventure and
Alejándro looked at each other,
then passed Shiv their mangoes.

"Here," said Alejándro. "Better
you than me. I'm lucky if I
don't cut myself doing that."

"This thing's slimy,"
Dustin whined.

"That's passionfruit,"
Shiv said. "It's supposed
to be like that inside."

"So's this," Wade said,
holding up a horned melon
to show its green seeds.
"It tastes good, though."

Shiv laughed. "If we
had a few more, then
we could make fruit salad!"

"That's an excellent idea,"
Dr. Bloch said, waving a hand
at the spread. "Please proceed."

"I was joking," Shiv said, staring
at him. "I can't fuckin' cook!"

"Then it's a good thing that
fruit salad requires no heat,"
Dr. Bloch said, smirking.

"Well ... what else would
we need, and do we have
any of that?" Wade said.

"This room comes with
basic supplies in the pantry
and kitchen," said Dr. Bloch. "I'm
sure it has sugar, honey, yogurt,
vanilla extract, lemon juice,
and so on for dressing."

Just then, Verne's knife
slipped, spraying crimson.

Shiv looked at him and
the gutted pomegranate.
"Did you cut yourself?
Because I can't tell."

"Nah, I just cut deeper
than I meant to," Verne said.
"You're supposed to slit the rind
and peel it away from the seeds."

Kincade pried off a wedge.
"They're not slimy, but this is
still a fruit where you eat the seeds.
Would it go with the other ones?"

So they spooned off little bits
of seeds from different fruits.

"Yeah, that works," Shiv said.

"Hey, Largo, what kind of
fruit do you have?" Dustin said.

"I dunno." Largo shrugged.
"It tastes okay, though."

"That's a feijoa,"
Dr. Bloch said. "If you
scoop the seeds out of
the pulp, you could add
those to your fruit salad."

So they did that.

Verne went through
methodically cutting
a piece of every fruit
so they could tell when
they'd tried everything.

"Most of these things have
edible pulp, not edible seeds,"
Wade said. "Is there anything
else that you eat the seeds?"

"Yes, but let Shiv open this one,"
Dr. Bloch said. "Nungu is --"

Shiv flicked away the shell
to reveal pockets of jellied seeds.

"-- tricky to open," Dr. Bloch finished.

Shiv added the nungu seeds
to their growing stash.

"Is it any good with
everything thrown in
together like that?"
Wade wondered.

"Yeah, it is," Shiv said.
Then he laughed. "It's
like slime salad, though."

"That's a good name for it,"
Dr. Bloch agreed after he
sampled it. "Do you guys
want to make a dressing?"

"Yes! A slimy one!" Wade said.

"Let's see, we have honey
and yogurt," Dr. Bloch said.

"Not yogurt," Shiv protested.
"I want to see the colors."

The slime salad was a riot
of red pomegranate and
green horned melon flecked
with nearly colorless seeds
from the other fruits.

"What about sugar and
lemon?" Wade suggested.
"They should mix well
with the fruit juices."

"Yeah, but how much
do we put?" Verne said.

"Use just a small amount
of lemon juice," Dr. Bloch said,
shaking a bottle over the bowl.
"See how it comes out of here
a few drops at a time?"

"I remember how to do
the sugar," Wade said.
"You sprinkle just a dusting
of it over the fruit, and then
wait for it to melt down."

Convicts weren't really
good at waiting, but Wade
shooed them away from
the bowl with vigor.

When Shiv tasted
the finished project,
he had to admit that it
was worth the wait.

"Well done," Dr. Bloch said.
"We can use some of the rest
in pies or muffins, but I think
your slime salad will work well
as a fresh fruit offering."

"Yeah, some guys will
try that just for the name,"
Mr. Bonaventure said.

"I'm awarding extra points
for creativity and hard work
in making a new recipe,"
Dr. Bloch said. "Thank you
for participating this project."

"Is there enough fruit to put
slime salad on the menu?"
Mr. Bonaventure asked.

"Oh yes," Dr. Bloch said.
"I got a bargain on a large lot
of exotic fruit. I wanted the guys
to help me figure out how best
to present it to the other inmates
so that people will try some of it.
Everyone, please pass the word
when you go back to your rooms."

Shiv scraped his spoon around
the bottom of his bowl, chasing
the last few colorful seeds.

It really was delicious.

"Don't worry, doc," he said.
"We'll tell 'em to go out on a limb,
because that's where the fruit is!"

* * *

Notes:

"Do not be afraid to go out on a limb ... That's where the fruit is."
-- Anonymous

The Lincoln penitentiary has a small dining room with attached kitchen, available for dinner parties in the privileged wing. It also provides space for the small-group or private cooking lessons. The pantry includes a variety of staple ingredients.

It's important to explore new foods. Here are some tips on expanding your palate and encouraging other people to try new foods. As Shiv recovers from his crappy past, his interest in fresh wholesome food increases, even if he's still a bit hesitant at this stage.

Read about exotic fruit seasons. This load includes mango, dragonfruit, and mamey.

Fruit salad recipes include a variety of dressings. Shiv, Verne, and a few other inmates band together to make "slime salad" from exotic fruits with messy seeds: horned melon, passionfruit, feijoa, nungu, pomegranate.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, food, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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