Tangerines remind me of childhood Christmases. Can you recall that tangy aroma once you’d pierced the skin with your thumb, peeled it away and the juice began to spray out like an ignited sparkler? Dates were rare in my childhood home. Amber-coloured like big sad eyes, dry and sugary, they arrived in elongated oval boxes, shaped as though to contain school pencils. Each lid had a coloured illustration of a one-humped camel, head held high, clopping over sand.
“It’s a desert the camel is crossing,” explained my father who had spent his war with the RAF gang show entertaining the troops in Africa and the Middle East. He regularly recounted tales to me of Arabian nights, magic and mischief in hot climates and he frequently imitated haunting nocturnal sounds of the desert. His stories, true or exaggerated, gave me a hunger for travel, a desire to uncover the roots of where these exotic foods we ate on special occasions were originally sourced. I longed to hitch a ride with one of those caravans.
It is not surprising then that once I had settled in the south of France on our olive farm, I set off on a seventeen-month journey in search of the history of the olive tree and the early cultivation of its stoned fruit. It is also not surprising that during those months on the road, other flavours, foods, fruits began to excite my interest as well. One was the delectable pomegranate.
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