31. 3. 2021

English Version | An apple a day and all prohibitions that lay


The conviction that apples are the forbidden fruit has been lost in time. It is more and more established that they are, in fact, always the sweetest. In the following report, the characters are fictional and any resemblance to something we cannot joke about is purely coincidental. I felt like it.

A light breeze blew in the valleys and heaths of Paradis-Sur-Mer. Strong enough to turn an otherwise bland temperature of eternal summer, into one that is not bothersome, but welcoming. The grass of green pastures would swirl perpetually, all was ripe, never stubble, and the sun would only be overcast for a minute, by some other cloud, always in a cirrus or cumulus manner, right when its light could potentially become punishing. Every tree was unusually full, not in casting shade, shadows or darkness where there was light or color, but to welcome more ginger robins than rooks, more nightingales than magpies, more felosas than jays, and the result was a continuous and omnipresent birdy symphony, hearable across the mirror of light that was the surface of the great lakes to the height of the tallest mountain, of everlasting snow. Only in the midst of the placid sea surface, that knew no storm nor waves, did silence reign, interrupted only by the resurfacing of certain large-sized cetaceous or the lonely call of a seabird, never migratory, because it would make no sense in a place with no seasons. Even the nighttime was bright. There was no new moon where darkness wouldn’t fit and, from the heights of the sky, a giant moon could watch over everything and everyone without outshining the constellations, the trail of the milky way and the aurora lights that could be both boreal and austral, northern as they could have been southern. How beautiful was life in Paradis-Sur-Mer, or simply Paradise, but in French it always sounds better. Adam knew it all too well, a life of pure laziness, the only one that was possible. As someone who is on vacation in Albufeira, which is paradise to the folk of Croydon, Bath, Bristol and Brighton, because this paradise thing is to each its own, Adam woke up whenever he felt like it, with no hangover and ready for a much more frugal breakfast than bacon with eggs, French toast, black pudding and baked beans. Usually, it would consist of some fruit and two or three sips of water from a nearby stream. Then he would wander around, completely naked and barefoot, naturally, across a field, up the mountainside, he would take a dip on the beach or just lay there, under the fullest ash or poplar trees, staring into the horizon, enjoying the singing of birds, or napping with his palms facing the grass which he swore he could feel growing. All this could seem very nice to someone on a two-week vacation. Or for a hermit, upon whom was bestowed a life of detachment. But for those who do it because they have no other choice, it all becomes terribly boring. Even more so when you feel no hunger, no thirst, nor any other needs that might elevate the spirit, because back then they didn’t even have books or a deck of cards, nothing of the sort.

That boredom was what led Adam to contact the Lord who created him on the sixth day and then looked at all he had created and, on the seventh day, thought “I’m just going to rest for a sec” and then never came back for two years or so. “It’s a lot of time to be doing nothing”, the First Man on Earth thought to himself, he who could never be a descendent from monkeys because of his lack of body hair. The Lord eventually showed up, because things around there in Paradise are always like that, you wish for it you get it, to ask his creation why the hell he was being disturbed at that time of day, which was around when he would take his tisane tea with two ginger cookies, for the sake of contrast. “I’m overwhelmed by this sense of monotony, supposed father. It is very much boredom town over here.” Like he alone could do, God found a solution right there and then. His sole warning was that it was going to sting for a little bit and took out one of his ribs without any anesthesia, which was something that didn’t really exist back then, and made The Woman. Unlikely? Perhaps. But what came after was the real deal. Oh, the joy and bliss of those initial times. Infinite promenades through the fullest of woods, expeditions to find the best waterfalls, lively conversations until dawn about all that surrounded them and what they were feeling, well, real share, no other intention, because the brattiest innocence fueled their relationship, without a single fight, very much so due to the inexistence of Woody Allen’s work, over which there is never consensus as to what movie better depicts the beginning of the director’s decline. On a hot morning, Eve woke up and, at dawn, lingered her sight a little more than normal over Adam’s usual morning preponderance. She felt an odd warmth going through her and other sensations she knew nothing of, as if insects were fluttering around inside her womb, and it could only be butterflies because, as it is known, in paradise there are no flies. As if in magical syntony, neither Adam could go on pretending he was still asleep and decided to placate both their eagerness’s in an embrace that shook the whole region of Paradis-Sur-Mer. God awoke with all the ruckus and approached them, already during that phase Darwin’s Evolutionist Theory denominates as “the cigarette after”, asking for explanations. Eve only managed to blab out the first excuse she could think of: “It was the evil serpent on the apple tree that tricked me into eating the forbidden fruit.” The Lord, who was not even in full control of what he had created, because if he did, he would know that serpents don’t climb up trees, that’s a snake thing, rushed to punish the creature. Adam’s punishment was to work the land in order to sustain himself and his offspring, and as for Eve, poor thing, was condemned to carry their descendants in her womb incurring in excruciating pain to deliver them. Now consider this… How beautiful life was before a Monday to Friday job, whose earnings are never enough. How beautiful the days are without the responsibility of having to provide a future to our children. How beautiful the world was before Eve (and Adam, let us share guilt here), had eaten the infamous and metaphorical apple. In this innocence/ guilt dichotomy, Adam and Eve are the unforgettable responsible beings for all the liberties that are taken away from us through prohibitions, especially moral ones, necessary to what we hold as orderly. Although we could never be ruled ever again. Where there is forbiddance, there is desire. And where there is an apple, there is the tempting, seductive, and overwhelming want to bite it until a drop of its juice rolling down our chin.

Snow White is yet another convicted bad girl. Surrounded by seven adorable and widely innocent dwarfs who, faced with the question she would respond “are just friends”, as soon as the opportunity presents itself of biting into a shiny full apple, probably a Fuji or Royal Gala, “nhac”. This onomatopoeia is written here to represent the moment this girl is trapped, as we all know, under the “spell” of a long hibernation, where only a kiss of her prince charming could bring her back to life. In fact, fairytales are filled with metaphors such as: “Hey, I discovered the delights my body is capable of through onanism and now I can’t wait to try the real thing, whatever that is, and just hope I’m not disappointed to the point of resorting to finishing the thing by myself”, which oftentimes happens. Let’s see… Red Riding Hood also had, under that cape, a repressed virgin desire ready to be taken advantage of by an opportunist, experienced and well-known wolf. It is the classic within the classics. “These eyes are big so I can see you better”, which is like saying, “Of course I love you, you’re special to me and I don’t want to use you in any way” until his teeth become big enough to “eat you better”, literally speaking, of course. Now imagine if this story also included an apple!

But we’re not only speaking of pleasures of the flesh when referring to the old premise: “The forbidden fruit is always the sweetest”. The guilt naturally falls, no shadow of a doubt, upon the little biblical couple who, whether you like it or not, is at the very foundation of our Jewish-Christian culture. Prohibitions existed so that the “order”, desired by those who, power-wise, stand above us (and by no one else), is maintained. This creates a problem. Naturally “unorderly”, we will always desire the subject of prohibition for the simple fact that it is forbidden. If it were allowed, we would probably not even think of it again. Today’s day and age are the best examples. If before we dreamt of the arrival of the weekend just so we could sleep in until whatever time we wanted, all it took was mandatory confinement to make us want to visit all the places we never went back to, probably since we were little kids. If it were not so, lawyers, people who are deeply familiar with the intertwines of the law and know exactly how to bend it, wouldn’t be some of the highest-paid professionals in the world. If we think about it, we figure “it” out, the paradox that is the punishment for breaking a prohibition, Prison! Which is the deprivation of all we could ever wish for, Freedom. Another paradox resides in the fact that, in the last year, we were deprived of that same freedom twice. And the World’s States came to know that, after all, we are very easily controllable. But the punishment for violating the obligation that is having our freedom taken away already escalated to fines. Because the ultimate punishment was already, on its own, being applied as a command. Complicated? Not really. It’s a little bit like that anecdote of the poor man who has an accident and wakes up in the hospital without his four limbs. When he blabs out a few obscene phrases to the nurse, his mother scolds him, saying: “Beware, God punishes!”, to what he retorts: “Of really? What more can he do to me? Mess my hair up?”

Get ready for a big disappointment: the forbidden fruit is not, indeed, any fruit at all. It is a pseudo fruit or an accessory fruit, according to its most modern denomination. It develops from the pedunculus (the region previous to the flower) and ends up encompassing the flower inside of it, meaning, it’s that “hollow” part that holds the seeds. In botanic studies, in order for something to be considered as fruit, it is necessary that a flower precedes it. Like that bud that remains after all the rose’s petals have fallen. It is not a random example, because apples are, in fact, from the same family as roses (Rosaceae). And it is thought that its connection to the so-called “prohibition” it is often a target for is, precisely, its scientific denomination (malus domestica), which in Latin translates to something like “Domestic Evil”. Natural of the territories where today we find Turkey (and also where Mount Ararat is situated, supposedly the place where Noah’s Arc would have been “stuck” after the diluvium – which kind of makes sense), it is thought that malus apple trees were the first to ever be planted by men. The selection of the best varieties and its perfecting through grafting was conducted throughout thousands of years, being that the first-ever known record dates back to when Alexander, the Great, found a species of minute, but incredibly sweet, apples, in Kazakhstan, taking them to Macedonia in 328 B.C.

It is in Ancient Greece where, used in various religious ceremonies, apples start to be implicated with something mystical and forbidden, at the same time it they are regarded as a fruit of love (rings a bell doesn’t it?). In Greek mythology, and this is just a mere example, one of the Twelve Tasks of Hercules is to pick golden apples from the Tree of Life that was located in the Garden of Hesperides. On the contrary, in Nordic mythology, its presence is constant in an ever positive and salutary way, which has a lot to do with the fact that, in cold and adverse weather climates, vegetables were scarce and apples, which can be picked in autumn, could be stored in such a way that they would last the majority of winter. It is from British Wales that comes the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, which calls for attention to the nutritious potential of this pseudo fruit. Recent research shows that the regular consumption of apples reduces the incidence possibility of colon, prostate and lung cancer, besides the widely known advantages to the regulations of digestion. Fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C in small quantities (as necessary), control of cholesterol levels, help in weight loss. However, we would underline the fact that the majority of these benefits are only valid when the peel is also eaten. There goes the old Alentejo’s tradition to peel a pêro (because in Alentejo there are no apples, only pêros) as a side to a few curated goat cheese chips and a glass of wine, which is the same as saying “dessert” around there. In the most typical of taverns of that highly gastronomical region of Portugal, all fellows put over the (marble) counter a small token of their contribution, which they carry on their “algibêra”, so that the prohibition holds: “Never drink without eating”. In the vast majority of times, we’re talking of striped pêros, as acid as they come. In the North of Portugal, where apples are as common as they are ginormous and sweet, which are stored in stacks of hay, so they last all winter long, the most capital of sins is committed. One day, in the middle of the grape harvest in the region of Ranhados (one of the noblest of villages between Mêda and Penedono), I spotted a series of apple trees of the Bravo de Esmolfe kind (yes, I’m not talking about “Bravo Môfo” or “Bravo Esmolfo”, this is yet another wild variety from Esmolfe, a town within the district of Penalva do Castelo). I rushed there to pick a few for myself, but was interrupted by a local: “You people there in Lisbon eat that?” Sure we do. And we pay good money for it. I discovered right there and then that around that area, all they are good for is to put them into a sisal row, which is then added to the wine press while the wine ferments, to “add taste”. I know we should all respect other’s habits and traditions, but if it were up to me, and even though the wine of the region is incredibly good, this would be forbidden. You can elect Pippin apples as the forbidden fruit. Bravo de Esmolfe is the sweetest fruit for me, at least. And Pippin apples can very well be fed to piglets. Just as it was done for so many years throughout this Portugal of ours.