Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pomegranates

I am so grateful for food, in all its marvelous varieties.

Last weekend, Scott and I went grocery shopping to pick up our Thanksgiving essentials. We purchased turkey and potatoes and onions and garlic (lots of garlic). We got pumpkin for a decadent pie and creamed corn for a hearty stuffing. We also picked up vanilla ice cream and assorted aromatics.

But most importantly, we got our yearly pomegranate.

A few years ago, Scott and I started our very first tradition as a fledgling family. It was Thanksgiving and pomegranates were on sale at Smith's. I'd never had one before and they looked so tasty. Scott taught me how to pick a good one: you pretty much want the heaviest one you can find--as long as it's without blemishes.

I remember how we carried our Thanksgiving purchases home that year. The bags banged against my legs as we walked across the street to our complex then carried them up the outer staircase and turned the key to our door. Our one-room studio apartment was small and frigid; it seemed completely incongruous with the rich mound of groceries we piled on the kitchen table. And the most exciting treasure in that plentiful collection was our pomegranate.

As soon as the rest of the food was put away, we broke into the exotic delicacy. As we peeled away the rind and filled a bowl with the tiny fruit-covered seeds, Scott told me about pomegranates.

The pomegranate carried great significance for the Hebrews. Firstly, it was a symbol of fertility. One fruit carries upwards of 600 seeds! The Hebrew high priest wore a robe decorated with a trim shaped like dangling pomegranates to remind the people of God's promise that Abraham's seed would number more than the stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore. In the desert, the people would multiply just like the pomegranate.

In addition, the moisture-hogging plant that bore pomegranate fruits was expensive to maintain in the desert, at least in the time before Christ. In spite of their delicious and useful yield, pomegranates were very rare and consequently associated with royalty. Tradition has it that Solomon modeled his crown after the calyx on top of the fruit. From this comes the traditional spiked ring we think of as a crown today. The delicious little seeds were rarely eaten and the bright dye was jealously hoarded to make a king's purple robes.

This fruit of priests and kings, this rare delicacy of ages past, was ours to enjoy on that chilly November afternoon. Scott and I were students and newly married, living on below-poverty-level wages in the cheapest apartment we could find. But we could afford that pomegranate, a luxury anciently reserved for royalty.

That stark contrast between our bountiful lives and the meager lifestyle of our predecessors brought into sharp relief our need to be grateful. As we enjoyed the sweet fruit of the pomegranate and stained our fingers with its purple dye, we talked about God's tender mercies. Our gratitude was especially sweet that year as we considered what we had, not what we lacked.

This year, our circumstances seem opulent to me. Yet with our cupboards overflowing with bounty and our stomachs rumbling in anticipation, it is the tradition of the pomegranate that I most look forward to. The symbol of the pomegranate seems even more potent to me now. I have been granted queenly blessings for the time being and promised a divine inheritance in the life to come.

There is much to be thankful for.

2 comments:

Brad and Hailey said...

Mmmm I love pomegranates. Thanks for all of the info on them! In Vegas my family has a tree of them. I miss just picking them and eating them. I think I'll have to get one today at the store ;)

Jay and Natalie said...

I love reading this blog because you find even the smallest thing to be so thankful for :)