Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ma Cherie

For several years now, at around this time (rainy season here but summer in the northern hemisphere), I have been seeing a tray of fresh cherries at the cold section of Rustan's supermarket at Power Plant in Rockwell. I paid them no mind, since they were sold at Php959 a kilo (roughly about US$18). The price is understandable, taking into consideration the high cost of importation and the care that must be taken to avoid bruising the very delicate fruit. But I had no intention of buying fruit sold with a price akin to off-season levels. And although local summer fruits now remain a luscious memory, other rainy season fruits like lychees, avocados, lanzones, and santol have taken their stead.

But this year, I could not resist, and I bought THREE cherries, one red cherry and two yellow cherries (as they were labeled), all wee three of which weighed in at almost 40 grams, costing me Php38. I thought this was a good deal since a small jar of preserved whole cherries costs about Php200, and I was sure the fresh cherries did not taste like cough syrup. I just bought three to sample them, promising myself to buy more if they were sweet.

It has been ten years now since I got my fist and only taste of freshly-picked, ripe, yellow cherries, and I considered this a good enough reason to take exception and at last buy Rustan's cherries. I was hoping to duplicate the treasured cherry-eating experience I had in the ancestral summer home of my host family in Cantonigros, in Catalunia, Spain. The property looked like that summer house in the Spanish movie Belle Epoque. The family was reputed for serving the best breakfast in Cantonigros - crusty bread rubbed with tomatoes and olive oil.

But it was for the cherries that I fondly remember them. As a member of a university-based performing group, I attended a music festival in town, and going home one evening, I chanced upon my hosts in the den. They were picking cherries from laden, leafy twigs that have been cut from the tree, or trees, as it looked like. I was asked to join, and I lost no time obliging. The cherries looked like tiny apples of the Golden du Limousin variety, yellow-golden, with one blushing cheek from the morning sun's kiss.

I conscientiously picked one frail globe at a time, gingerly putting it on the white ceramic plate in front of me. Not far into the evening, my hosts called it a day, and told me to do whatever I pleased. I stayed in the den, of course, still picking cherries, but this time alternating between putting one globe onto the plate and putting one in my mouth. Oh, it was the the sweetest, most sublime thing! To put a whole fresh cherry into your lips, biting it off from the stem, your tongue caressing the entire globule, then gently bringing down your teeth so as not to crush it but chewing very slowly and tenderly so the subtly sweet juice coats the insides of your mouth, ahh, and to salivate for more.

There wasn't a teeny, weeny trace of cough syrup taste. My hosts the following morning were kind enough not to notice the dent I left in their cherry harvest.

Fast forward to ten years later, Flynn came for dinner the night I bought the three cherries, and I thought it sweet to give him three cherries for the road. He said they were sweet. So the next time I was at Rustan's I bought more. I was pleasantly surprised to see the price for red cherries had gone down to Php759 (US$14), but there were no yellow cherries. I got a dozen red cherries this time, which weighed in at exactly 100 grams (Php75.90). For their price I decided the cherries deserved regal treatment, so I put them in a wine glass. But oh, they tasted like and had the texture of bland fresh plums. Not sweet, no cough syrupy taste - in fact no taste at all, like biting into a tasteless tomato.

I don't know if Flynn tasted them sweet because of no previous memory, or if maybe the yellow cherries were sweet. Or maybe there is a world of difference between the taste of a freshly picked cherry and a cherry dragged all the way across the globe. Or maybe ten years more than sweetened my memory of the fresh cherries in Cantonigros. I've been frequenting Rustan's recently but no more cherries. I guess I'll have to wait until next year. Or maybe not, since it's lanzones time. :-)


Anonymous said...

Hay! Aren't we all yearning for fruit we can't craving is for fresh peaches. I SO feel for you because, as with you and your cherries, I have only had fresh peaches once in my life (in Greece). Sigh...

Of course, then I think of our mangoes and pineapples...I wouldn't trade those for a truckload of fresh peaches. Then there's mangosteen (another fave). CHICO (still another fave). And saba. Santol. Lanzones. Langka. Dayap juice. Ok...I'm happy again :-)

ting-aling said...

Oh how I wish I could share some with you guys. $15 is still a lot of money to pay for a kilo of cherries. Wow. I don't think I'll buy them if they cost that much. The taste depends on the weather and climate too. Pag rainy, ah they'll be bland talaga.

Peaches don't last very long. They only stay in the market for about a month so you have to enjoy them while they flood the market, otherwise you'll have to wait for next year's harvest again.

Kai said...

Joey, Rustan's has fresh peaches, but then again, although I haven't gotten to buying them yet, I wouldn't recommend them....wouldn't want a repeat of my cherry episode!

Ting, please eat some fresh cherries for me. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oi, ne! I managed to grab some of the reddish-yellow variety from Rustan's when they were in season last month. They were super! I was just really sad when cherry season ended; it was just too brief!

Incidentally, there was an article in Gourmet magazine some time ago that was touting the fact that reddish-yellow (sour) cherries are tastier than the dark red kind. I totally agree on that score. ^_^

Anonymous said...

I never saw those peaches! And I was looking believe me...especially after Midge's heads up some time ago (and a number of people telling me that Rustans sold fresh peaches)...the peaches are avoiding me I tell you! Oh well...they can't hide forever...there's always next year, haha ;)

Kai said...

Midge! ;sigh;sob;sob :-) I knew it! I should have bought more yellow cherries the first time!

Joey, you know what, Rustan's had fresh nectarines, too. Haay. At least now I have company in waiting for the northern hemisphere's next summer. ;-)

Anonymous said...

The nectarines I found :-) Yehey for that!

Kai said...

Hope they're good, Joey!

Anonymous said...

Cherries!!! I haven't had any for the longest time! And Joey's right, we're yearning for fruits we can't have. Mine would be persimmons and plums and I want them fresh off the tree! :-(

Depends which Rustan's you go to. Sometimes I find produce in Katipunan which I don't find in Cubao or Makati.

Anonymous said...

I crave for the original mangoes that I may or may not find during my business trips to HK. I used to be a Rustan's merchandiser/designer in the Ortigas office who moved to NYC and lately the Jersey Shores. I am currently in China and will visit my old colleagues @Rustan's during the latter part of the month, hence I stumbled on this blog..."Ma Cherie" while searching for the word Rustan's.
During the months of June to August, it is when the cherries are most abundant in the local northeast supermarkets. I even find it expensive @$2.99/lb. so I wait when the huge, super calamansi size appear in Costco, which is a warehouse store. Sad to say that you have to buy the whole 5 lb.(roughly 2 kilos) which could be anywhere from $7.99 to $9.99. It comes to a point that because you need to find out if the next one will be sweeter than the last, you find yourself gobbling more than what one should be allowed to eat. I am married to a "puti" who is not a big fan of cherries, so most of the time the bowl looks as if it has my name on it.
I wish there is a fruit exchange so I can send you guys some cherries, in exchange for the best mangoes in the world. I sometimes substitute them with peaches, but then it is never a guarantee that it could always be good even if they are labeled "California Tree Ripened". They could be sometimes mushy and tasteless. I could forego them in exchange for the mangosteen, langka dnd lanzones!
Then there's the chocolate covered (golf ball sized with stems!)strawberries but that's for another day's story....