Transitions

Ripe persimmons after a rainfall, which is actually the best time to go and gather them.

Ripe persimmons after a rainfall, which is actually the best time to go and gather them.

It’s the first day of November. Walking the five blocks with my daughter to drop her off at her elementary school, we passed by two persimmon trees. Last week they were both in the throes of dropping ripe fruit, but now they are nearly bare. Every single day I had to fight off the urge to gather as many persimmons as possible, mainly because I didn’t have time to deal with them at home. Persimmons are not something you can sit on, literally and figuratively.

Last month I was facing the same dilemma with the last of the season’s pawpaws. It was a very good year for pawpaws here. I processed and froze maybe ten quarts of pulp, and who knows how many pounds of pawpaws I drug home. It was a tiny fraction of what I could have gathered hypothetically, but there are only so many hours in the day.

A sign that pawpaw season is on the outs. If you see a pawpaw like this one, for god's sake don't eat it. That rusty-looking orange tinge is oxidized and bruised flesh. This puppy is over the hill.

A sign that pawpaw season is on the outs. If you see a pawpaw like this one, for god's sake don't eat it. That rusty-looking orange tinge is oxidized and bruised flesh. This puppy is over the hill.

There are other tantalizing casualties of autumn: gingko nuts, crabapples. I can’t ever get as many as I would like. What I really want is for time to freeze, but that would be ultimately unbearable. The only thing that’s permanent is a state of transition. The cycles of time spin onward.

Career-wise, transition is also a permanent state for me. I’ve been gigging it as long as I’ve been in the food writing game, always cobbling together different jobs to piece together an income. For nearly a year, I’ve been editing the food section of the pop culture website Paste Magazine. The bulk of my food writing in the past ten months has gone there and not to this site, which is okay because I’m not heavy into blogging.

I also got deeper into the whole foraging thing, and it’s all been within walking distance of my house. Bringing unusual things home to eat is fun, but it’s going out there to look for them in the first place that helps me keep my sanity. There’s something about dragging five types of acorns home in my pockets that gives me a sense of purpose missing from being on the computer all day long, even if the only thing we do with the acorns is make them into goofy crafts. Humans can eat acorns—they were a staple food for many Native American tribes of California—but we’ve not made it that far yet. Rendering acorns into edible foodstuffs is work, more work than pulping our seedy native persimmons, even. I think I just like knowing this stuff is out there and I can groove on it for a little while before it’s gone.

The gigs are the same way, really. I get one and know it won’t be around forever, so I enjoy it while it lasts and keep my eyes alert for the next opportunity to replace it once it’s over. The pawpaws go away and the persimmons are waiting in the wings.

A lovely Diospyros virginiana.

A lovely Diospyros virginiana.

A hope of mine was to share a persimmon fruitcake recipe—I made three versions of it, but it’s still not quite there. These are the small and wily North American persimmons, by the way, not the big and knobby Fuyus or Hachiyas, though you can generally substitute Hachiya pulp for the sweeter and grittier pulp of Diospyros virginiana.

So instead, I’m going to leave you with a wish that you’ll go outside—a park, your backyard, a trail, anywhere—and look around and think about the way everything is today. What does it smell like, is it cloudy or not, are there leaves on the trees. Are there trees at all. I’m always seeing these lists like “20 National Parks to See Before You Die”, and it breaks my heart a little, because there’s a whole world around you every day that wants to be noticed, and it’s a little different every time, offering patterns and cycles and surprises all at once.

Crabapples from the house next door to one of my favorite persimmon spots. Back in September I made these into jelly with a little habanero pepper for kick.

Crabapples from the house next door to one of my favorite persimmon spots. Back in September I made these into jelly with a little habanero pepper for kick.