Apples are only my second favorite.

When people ask me what my favorite fruit is, I usually answer apples.  This is mostly true.  I love apples, though I don’t really like the Red Delicious variety.  I like my apples to crunch when I bite into them and be sweet with a touch of sour.  When Cripps Pink apples started hitting produce shelves, or more accurately, when I became aware they were on those shelves, I couldn’t get enough.  Then I branched out to Jazz apples and Honeycrisps.  I learned that slices of crispy, tangy apples dipped in peanut butter was one of the most delicious snacks ever.  My true favorite is the Asian pear, or Pyrus Pyrifolia.  I was introduced to this perfectly crunchy and sweetly mellow fruit by the mother of the boys I tutored back in high school.  I helped a classmate, new to the states from Korea, pass a free enterprise class we were in and her dad suggested I help out a family with two kids in elementary school.  What started as me helping out another student led to a part-time job and loads of Korean snacks and eventually to two semesters of Korean and a deep appreciation of bulgogi.  To this day, going to the Asian grocery store is one of my favorite trips.  I remember everything my classmate offered me to eat and what the boys’ mom set on the table while I helped with math and reading and more.  When it was time for me to graduate and move on to college, I had to say goodbye.  After finishing up our last tutoring session and I was telling the kids how much I’d miss them and how proud I was of how hard they had worked, their mom came into their dining room and set the biggest container of Asian pears I had ever seen on the table.  She had remembered how much I loved them the first time she served me a bowl of pieces she had cut so carefully.  I had enjoyed all the snacks so much over the first couple of tutoring sessions, I asked my classmate to teach me how to say something was yummy or tasty in Korean.  After savoring that first bite of Asian pear, I tried to tell her “delicious” and “thank you”.  My pronunciation was terrible, but her smile showed she understood I was trying.  Months later, she made sure I could have my favorite fruit for days.  This is when I began to even slightly grasp the universality of food.  Her boys interpreted for me, relaying information from her to me and back again.  Growing up just outside of New Orleans, I was always around delicious food.  I was very much aware that food could be a form of love, appreciation, a thank you, an art form, comfort.  I’d nearly always understood the vocalizations of those giving me the food, up until that interaction.  The absence of words created an opportunity for me to experience the language of food on a whole new level.  That giant container of Asian pears was like a humongous sticky note reminding me, “You deserve your favorite things!”  I’ve forgotten nearly everything I learned in Korean in college, but I never forgot what my classmate from highschool taught me.  Now my own kids tumble through the sounds, trying to say thank you for their japchae and yummy with their katsu.  When the cook comes by and winks, signals shhh with her finger, and drops an extra dumpling on each of their plates, I remember Asian pears.

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