“And a partridge in a pear tree.” The enumeration of gifts in that song is at once clever, and annoying. I’ve already heard the song half-a-dozen times or more this year. Of the traditional holiday songs, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” irritates me most. It triggers my inner curmudgeon. To make matters even more irritating, Christmas is still a few weeks away.
The warbling of the last line of the verses over and over at least has the redeeming value of reminding me about pears and how much I enjoy them. Yet, there is the situation that sometimes, even in mid-summer, that when I see pears, the last line of the Twelve Days plays in my mental jukebox.
As if to reinforce this personal pairing of pears and poetic pertinence, I recently received a bag of Bartlett pears from my sister as part of a care-package. She remembers that I love to eat the tasty tree fruit. I usually munch pears raw, but sometimes I like one poached or baked. When cooked, pears make an easy, fast dessert.
Pears have a relatively short shelf-life and their “Goldilocks Zone” can be elusive. Many folks don’t like pears that are too firm or too soft. They will only eat pears that are just right. I’m not that fussy about the pears that come my way. If they’re firm, I bake them or put them aside to ripen, if they’re soft, they get eaten promptly. If they are in between firm and mushy, I enjoy them raw.
The seventeenth century French cookbook author Francois Pierre de la Varenne wrote, “The pear is the grandfather of the apple, its poor relation, a fallen aristocrat, the man-at-arms of our domains, which once, in our humid land, lived lonely and lordly, preserving the memory of its prestige by its haughty comportment.” The author was basically correct because pear and apple trees belong to the same family of plants that blossom in the springtime. Other fruit trees that belong in the same grouping are apricot, peach, and even cherry trees.
‘Tis the season to give partridges in pear trees. I’ll accept the pears and set the partridges free to fly. There is a pear in the kitchen that has reached the “Goldilocks Zone” so I’d better enjoy it now.