Goblins rule the fruit black market. Don’t believe me? Just ask Christina Rossetti. Goblins have their fingers on forbidden fruit, and the means to put it in your mouth. It’s their collective business. Longing to taste the fruit of the Lotus Tree or a dirigible plum? What would you give to taste the pomegranates from Persephone’s own garden? Come buy, the goblins cry.
Molly Ringle decided to find out, and the result of her imaginative wanderings is The Goblins of Bellwater, a beguiling book due out October 1st from Central Avenue Publishing. I’ll have a review for you later in the week; today, I’m delighted to share with you a guest post from Molly herself! I asked her about magical fruit; she gave me her thoughts and threw in dessert. Enjoy!
To Taste Magical Fruit:
A Guest Post from Molly Ringle
It amuses me to realize I’ve written about magical fruit for four books in a row now. The first three were volumes of one trilogy (Persephone’s Orchard and its sequels), so maybe that only counts as one. But since the series is about Persephone and Hades, naturally I had to include Underworld pomegranates. I also introduced the “golden apple” of immortality, which was actually an orange with magical properties. (“Golden apple” apparently was the phrase often used for oranges in older forms of Greek and other languages.)
However, apparently I wasn’t done with magical fruit, because after I’d finished the trilogy, I chose Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” as the inspiration for my next book, The Goblins of Bellwater. And wow, does that poem ever have a lot of fruit in it. The goblins’ luring call sounds like a lyrical, insane grocery list:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South
When a young woman ventures over in curiosity, she ends up in an orgy of tasting, sucking juices from one enchanted fruit after another. As you can guess, she isn’t quite herself anymore once she returns home from that. Accordingly, in my version, I made it a fruit pastry (a blackberry tart) that tempts one of my unlucky protagonists into falling under a spell: the kind of treat we see in the pastry case and just can’t resist when we’re buying a coffee. (I figured sugar was more the vice of the modern day instead of fresh fruit, though naturally I had to involve fruit somehow, as an homage to Rossetti!)
It isn’t just me with a magic-fruit interest, though. Food or drink with magical qualities is a common staple of fairy tales and myths, right up there with magic swords and magic jewelry. After all, people have to eat, which makes us vulnerable. Perhaps because of that vulnerability, and because of the many ways the wrong substances can poison us, humankind’s legends often involve the cardinal rule “Do not eat anything in the otherworld.”
In Greek mythology, Persephone became irrevocably tied to the Underworld when she ate its pomegranate seeds. (You’d think a goddess would know that rule, which makes me think she WANTED to stay with Hades, but that’s a different story…) In fae folklore it’s much the same: if you are ever brave enough to venture into the world of faeries, you are not supposed to accept any of their food or drink, or chances are you’ll never come back to the human realm again. Or if you do return, you’ll be under some spell, which will be no simple matter to shake off.
It goes against our instincts as pack animals: we like to share meals, and indeed sitting down together for meals is, in nearly all cultures, a sign of truce, at least for the length of the meal. If your host poisons you or puts you under a foodborne spell, everyone agrees that’s a pretty low down and dirty move. Nevertheless, when it comes to the fae, the prime thing to remember is that they do not operate under the same cultural rules as we humans.
So indeed, no matter how tempting that blackberry tart looks when some goblin offers it to you in the woods at night, you really shouldn’t bite into it. The residents of Bellwater learn that rule, all too belatedly.
This recipe is not mine; it’s the plum torte recipe run regularly in The New York Times. However, the great thing about it is that it’s not only easy (even for people like me who aren’t very ambitious bakers), but you can adapt it to nearly any fruit. I’ve made it with apples, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries and pears as well as the recommended plums. (I’m starting to sound like Rossetti’s goblins with that list.) You can also play with spices to suit your tastes, though the cinnamon goes with almost everything.
The New York Times’ Original Plum Torte (with Molly’s notes)
- ¾ to 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened (Molly’s note: I like to substitute coconut oil for a couple of tablespoons of this)
- 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted (Molly’s note: you can substitute rolled oats for 1/3 or so of the flour, and/or can use gluten-free flour)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 24 halves pitted purple plums (or other sliced fruits, however many it takes to cover the top)
- Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon, for topping
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
- Spoon the batter into a springform pan of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
- Bake 1 hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream. (To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.)
Molly Ringle’s The Goblins of Bellwater will be released on October 1st; pre-order it now!
All mouth-watering tart photographs by Molly Ringle, and all Pavlovian complaints should be directed to her desk. GeekDame is not responsible for any drastic increase in daily caloric intake resulting from this post.
“Goblin Market” illustration above by Arthur Rackham.
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