A dear friend of ours sent over a great big lovely bag of star fruit and pomelos; he grows many exotic delights in his backyard and it's always a treat to see what he's produced this year. My daughter loves star fruit, and has already eaten about half of the first gift, so our friend sent over another bag for her. I promised to make a fresh starfruit tart for her, but I'm wondering if there will be any left by the time I do my baking for the week.
A pomelo is usually called the grandfather of the grapefruit, and is so much tastier than its hybrid offspring that I feel sorry for people who settle for the acid/bitter stuff they sell in the supermarkets. It's not very pretty, though; it looks like a mutant lime (pomelos can grow to be the size of basketballs) and has a very thick rind. If you don't first remove the membranes around the fruit, you'll get a whole mouthful of bitterness.
As we snack on the homegrown goodies, I keep looking at the bowl of beautiful, perfect red delicious apples I have on the kitchen table. They're a gorgeous ruby red, polished to a glow, and now no one wants them (I bought them before our friend sent over his goodies.) They don't make very good baking apples, but I can probably use them for applesauce, dry them into chips, or something along those lines.
Juggling all this fruit made me think about writing, of course -- everything is about writing. Stories are the fruit of our labors, and naturally we want to set out a great big bowl of what we plant and grow and nurture and harvest, and watched it get gobbled up. But what sort of fruit do we put in the bowl, and who's going to want it?
Certainly some of the most popular books I've read out there are just as pretty and polished and perfect as the daintiest of red delicious apples. Not very original or surprising, but definitely dependable and decorative. Then there are those other stories, the ones that seem on the outside to be as humble and homely as a pomelo. On the surface, they can't hold a candle to those apples.
If offered a choice, most people would dump the pomelo in the trash without even trying it, and stick with the lovely, uniform apple, which will taste as they expect: inoffensively sweet, bland, and exactly like the last apple they bought at the store. That, I'm afraid, is human nature.
Not everyone is a same-old same-old apple-lover, thank heavens, or some of us would definitely be out of work. Fortunately for us there are people who want something that surprises them, something they can't always find at every market. They may not know what to call it, or even what they're hoping to taste, but they're not afraid to experiment and try new things. As they do, they develop an appreciation for the unexpected, and while they can always pick up one of those perfect apples, in time I believe they find it doesn't satisfy them anymore.
As writers, we're expected to try to cultivate perfect story apples to be mass marketed in every store around the country, when what we really want to do is grow pomelos in the backyard and give them as gifts to friends.
As storytellers and professionals, should the fruit of our labors fill the bowl, or the bag? Are we only capable of producing one or the other? Or can we grow both? What do you guys think?