Years ago whilst studying down in Wellington I spent an evening in a beautiful old home perched high on the slopes of Mt Victoria. My host for the evening was a family friend, a quirky yet kind woman who shares her home with a collection of flatmates, each equally as quirky as the next. As the evening progressed and conversation relaxed, we found ourselves sharing tales of romantic gestures. I am unsure whether or not I contributed to this conversation however there is one story which sticks in my mind. It is a simple story, without extravagance, a modest gesture which I have recounted to various people over the years and one which garners mixed responses. I however think it is hopelessly romantic.
It goes a little something like this…..
It is a wintry day in Wellington, a cutting wind sent from the snow-blanketed south blows in across the Cook Straight tousling freshly coiffured do’s and lifting freshly ironed skirts. A young man, coat buttoned against the cold, carefully looks over a pile of quinces stacked on the shelves of a small fruit shop. He selects three perfectly formed fruit, pays for them and then heads back out into the cold.
A young woman sits at her desk in a low rise building, gazing out across the slate-grey sea awash with frothy white-caps. She reaches for a package sitting on her desk, a package which sat awaiting her arrival. The package is heavy, its contents wrapped in brown paper tied with string. She carefully unties the string to reveal 3 perfectly formed quince, their floral perfume filling the air.
I had always suspected that quince might be an historically significant fruit, and digging around I have come to learn that this in fact so. Ancient texts suggest that Eve’s fruit of temptation may have been a quince rather than an apple. In ancient Greece quince was a wedding offering and the story goes that a bride, before entering the wedding chamber, would nibble on the fragrant flesh of a quince to perfume her breath. And if this is not proof enough of the romanticism that surrounds quince, I must point out that quince was a fruit sacred to Aphrodite.
In all my thirty years I had never, until last month, cooked quince. I had intended to poach it and serve it with homemade crumpets but I cooked the fruit for too long and it began to lose its shape. So I cooked it for a while longer until it became gelatinous and blushed a deep red and set in perfect little rounds. I urge you to try this recipe. It is easy to make and when wrapped up and tied with string it makes a perfect autumn offering, especially when accompanied with cheese and wine.