“We already know that you’re an apple girl,” states Kelly, my nutritionist, matter-of-factly during a recent appointment. ‘Tis true. I eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast every day, and an apple is always involved. “Of what’s going to be coming into season… let’s see…” Kelly’s latest strategy to introduce new foods into my narrow (but expanding!), orthorexic diet is to task me with trying the seasonal produce from the multitude of local farms, one fruit or vegetable at a time. After my sweet success with a sweet potato, I successfully conquered the entire berry family over the course of the summer, plus cherries. I discovered that I love blueberries and cherries, that strawberries are just OK, and that raspberries, while delicious, are rather too fragile to keep in my refrigerator consistently. I was feeling quite proud of myself, despite the fact that an artichoke, a zucchini, and a bunch of asparagus wound up as what I might call “collateral damage.” Usually, vegetables are my safe foods… but not vegetables that I must cook. It’s a complicated story.
“How about a pear?” Kelly stated more than asked.
“How about, no?” I replied, only half jokingly.
“What’s the problem with a pear?” she countered.
“Too many calories,” I responded. She looked at me quizzically. We both know that there is nothing rational about eating disorders. I think I’m allergic! I wanted to say, though I knew for a fact that I’m not allergic to pear. “OK, fine! Just one pear!” I conceded.
A few days later, I was in the grocery store surveying the pears. Did you know there are about five different varieties of pears in my local grocery store? What the heck is an Asian pear? Where do they put the normal pear-pears? Fortunately, there was a woman there who looked like she knew more about this pear-buying business than I did. “Excuse me,” I interrupted her. “Do you know which of these pears is the best?” If I was going to eat one of these things, I wanted to make it worth the effort. It just so happened, this very kind woman did know more about pear-buying than me. She pointed to one yellowish variety and explained that those were her husband’s favorite, but were rather gritty.
“But these,” she held up a perfectly pear-shaped, golden-brown, California Bosc, “are my favorite!” Then, as if letting me in on her secret, she leaned closer and whispered, “They’re the best!”
Sold! I hovered over the bin of pears, bobbing and weaving my head to examine them from every angle. I picked up one, the replaced it. I picked up another, turning it over in hand, squeezing it gently, rubbing the pads of my fingers over its skin. I carefully selected one of the smaller of the fruits, a smooth pear with no evidence of bruising, uniform in color, with just the right firmness. Kelly would be so impressed! I got my pear home and pulled out my food exchange list, which details just how much of each food constitutes one serving. I still measure and weigh everything that I prepare for myself, especially when it is something new that I am trying for the first time. (Thankfully, I manage to do relatively well in restaurants without these crutches). I skimmed the list of fruits. I skimmed the list again. I read the list line by line. No pears! I texted my best friend from high school. “Am I really supposed to eat this whole thing? It’s kind of big. If you were going to eat a pear, would you eat the whole thing? Or maybe half?”
“The whole thing,” came the reply. So much for that. My California Bosc and I were stuck with each other. I went for an afternoon bike ride and returned to my apartment to fix my snack. I arranged the food in neat little bowls. Some cottage cheese in one bowl, and my lovely pear in the other. I sat down on the carpeted living room floor. Mindfully, I took a bite, turning the tender flesh over in my mouth, noticing its subtle flavor, it’s not-crisp-but-not-mealy quality, it’s gentle aroma.
If I never eat another pear again, I don’t think I would mind. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I didn’t have that, holy-cow!-what-have-I-been-missing-out-on?! feeling that occurred when I ate cherries for the first time in half a decade. It wasn’t good or bad, it just was. Yet, for those fifteen minutes or so that I spent savoring my pear, it was a milestone experience, made more remarkable by my presence in the moment. It is not one that I will soon forget.