Fruit Cocktail in Light Syrup
By Amy Gerstler
Rocket-shaped popsicles that dyed your lips blue
were popular when I was a kid. That era got labeled
“the space age” in honor of some longed-for,
supersonic, utopian future. Another food of my
youth was candy corn, mostly seen on Halloween.
With its striped triangular “kernels” made
of sugar, wax and corn syrup, candy corn
was a nostalgic treat, harkening back to days
when humans grew, rather than manufactured,
food. But what was fruit cocktail’s secret
meaning? It glistened as though varnished.
Faint of taste and watery, it contained anemic
grapes, wrinkled and pale. Also deflated
maraschino cherries. Fan-shaped pineapple
chunks, and squares of bleached peach
and pear completed the scene. Fruit cocktail’s
colorlessness, its lack of connection to anything
living, (like tree, seed or leaf) seemed
cautionary, sad. A bowl of soupy, faded, funeral
fruit. No more nourishing than a child’s
finger painting, masquerading as happy
appetizer, fruit cocktail insisted on pretending
everything was ok. Eating it meant you embraced
tastelessness. It meant you were easily fooled.
It meant you’d pretend semblances,
no matter how pathetic, were real, and that
when things got dicey, you’d spurn the truth.
Eating fruit cocktail meant you might deny
that ghosts whirled throughout the house
and got sucked up the chimney on nights
Dad wadded old newspapers, warned you
away from the hearth, and finally lit a fire.
Adam had a box of business cards shipped home and requested that we deliver them on Monday before some sort of networking event in the evening, so since the weather forecast was good and we missed a week of autumn while out west, Paul took the afternoon off and we went to the National Arboretum en route to College Park. We had already had an arboreal morning, since our neighbor had found someone to remove the tree that had fallen across both our yards while we were away and they came to cut and shred it into wood chips. So I had the smell of wood and leaves in my nose all day. In addition to seeing the autumn bonsai exhibit, we went to the Capital Columns, walked through the ferns in the woods and took the trail down to the Anacostia River:
From the arboretum we drove through Prince George's County to College Park, where we met Adam at his dorm to drop off his business cards plus half our leftover Halloween candy. We took the other half the candy to Daniel, whom we met outside an engineering building after stopping to see the sheep on the campus farm, and we took him food shopping and to IHOP for dinner. He has a crazy couple of weeks ahead -- midterms, GRE, and he may be flying to Wisconsin for a job interview in the midst of it all. After we took him back to his apartment, we came home, watched this week's election-season Sleepy Hollow in which Crane reminds us to vote on Tuesday and makes an American Idol joke, then caught up on The 100 which is quite fun this season.