There is a great unexpected joy from sinking your teeth into a perfectly ripe pear. ‘It is the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption’ writes Edward Bunyard, in his 1920s book ‘The Anatomy of Dessert.’ I laughed, albeit in my head, rather than out loud when I read this but it does ring true….
Sure the average apple is better than the average pear - but there is something far more sublime about the perfect pear. In Seventeenth Century France, pears were seen as the supreme fruit of the age and gentlemen farmers and horticulturalists alike became obsessed with perfection.
A good pear is notoriously tricky to find, as they should be picked firm and then ripened inside. All this provides issues for the supply chain. ‘The result’ declares Jane Grigson, ‘is that most people have never eaten a decent pear in their lives.’
A few years ago my ex boyfriend (now husband) and I were sitting outside a restaurant on the banks of Lake Garda. The days were warm in late September, but after the sun went down the air took on a chill and so after we had finished dinner we headed inside in search of a digestive. We were greeted by an unimaginable wall of spirits; a rainbow of liquor and label. What stuck out most was a bottle of Poire Willaims - a clear bottle, a clear liquid and inside a perfectly formed pear! How the pear got inside the bottle became the great mystery of the holiday. I later learned that they are in fact grown inside the bottle, with each bottle acting as a mini greenhouse for each pear.
If you’ve found some pears which are not bringing you unexpected joy then a great way to improve them is to cook with them. I love the classic salad of pear, stilton and pecan nuts. You peel and slice the pears, sprinkle them with brown sugar and bake them for 20 minutes or until they are soft. You toast a few pecan nuts and you crumble some stilton. You then toss a few salad leaves in sherry vinegar and olive oil, and layer the leaves with the pears, pecans and stilton. It’s an incredible salad and definitely benefits from a glass of red wine.