The symbolism of the pomegranate is very old. Persephone ate nothing in Hades but six pomegranate seeds. It meant she had to spend six months of the year with her wintry abductor and was only allowed back up to earth for the other six. The pomegranate came to symbolise fertility and rebirth. You can see them littered symbolically across early Renaissance altarpieces, bursting open to show their rows of seeds. In Istanbul street vendors used to offer pomegranate juice, narli sok, from little itinerant carts. It’s a good few years since I was there. Perhaps they still do, perhaps not. An elderly Turk, living in gloomy self-imposed exile in London, told me last week that they do not. Perhaps that was pessimism.
Anyway, from an old recipe book, I found this Catalan winter salad. The pomegranate traditionally ripes on November 1st, All Saints Day. Or is it November 2nd, All Souls. Whichever it is, this is the recipe:
Take a whole cauliflower, not too large. Rinse and cut away the stem and leaves at the base. Cook until just tender in boiling water to which two teaspoons of vinegar have been added. Remove from water and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, in a salad dish, mix a generous handful of chopped pitted green olives and another of chopped pitted black olives. Add a large fistful of chopped parsley, and the seeds (minus the pith) of half a large pomegranate (or one small one). Cut the cauliflower into small florets and add. Mix gently so as not to break the florets. Add olive oil whisked together with vinegar and salt. Stir again and sprinkle with plenty of freshly-ground pepper.
It’s strangely good.