Tuesday 26 March 2013

The Prayer of the Passion Fruit

I once, stupidly, proclaimed 'If I shoot ever tweet, shoot me.' At the time I had no idea how wonderful Twitter was, how many friends I would find online or how much love and support I would find in cyberspace. So when I received a tweet from Jo Barrow @i_am_jobarrow asking me where she could find a column I had written for Woolworths TASTE in January / February 2011 about granadillas and gratitude, I had to smile because the request came at just the right time.  I knew then that I needed to eat a granadilla and start saying my gratitudes. So I thought I'd post the column for Jo. It appears, along with many others, in my book coming out in April (punt punt, my publishers will be happy) but for now, here it is....

The Prayer of the Passion Fruit

I married my love on the 6 January. Twelfth Night. It was a raucous, happy affair. But we celebrated our wedding with two wedding cakes. Because we couldn’t decide on one. I wanted a plain elegant marzipan white icing fruitcake on which we would put fresh flowers on the day. Jacques, showing an intense dislike for both fruitcake and marzipan, insisted on getting married with a granadilla cake, his favourite : the type with two layers and frosting in between and messily slapped on top. The type you get at church bazaars and aunties’ house. Now I like granadilla cake, my aunty Margie made an excellent one, but I certainly didn’t want that to be my wedding cake, not at our wedding. Not accompanying the live jazz band and gin and lime sorbets. My mom suggested a compromise. His and Her cakes. And so it was that on the night, my cake looked beautiful displayed on the cake stand, a perfect white square, no frills, covered only in fresh full blown roses. Jacques’s cake, on the other hand, made a grand entrance, stealing the show. My mom had bought no less that 17 of those kitschy-cool bride and groom cake toppers and placed them all on the cake along with a handful of sparklers that set the night alight. And most people ate the granadilla version. Including me. I think my cake went home almost untouched and my family ate fruitcake for a year. But it is the granadilla cake we most remember. The flavour Jacques insisted on.

Before Jacques, I never much cared for granadillas. As I child the closest I would come to them was eating the granadilla lollies, sold at corner cafes and on beaches in the summer, but even then, I, disapprovingly picked out the tiny black seeds. Older, I grew to like their other name Passion Fruit, mistakenly thinking it to be of sensual origin rather the spiritual one it in fact is. And I have always thought their flowers to be incredibly beautiful. I once visited friends in the Italian Lake District and their garden wall was covered in a creeper laden with blooming passion fruit flowers. I spent a lot of time admiring the intricate floral patterns and delicate markings while contemplating the lost-cause-love who had accompanied me on the trip. Perhaps the granadilla, mysterious in its more exotic setting, was a sign of things to come... A man I would love with all my heart, who I would thank God for, and who would make me love granadillas.

Granadillas also feature strongly in the lives of my parents, who have been married for 43 years. My mom tells me that when she and my dad were courting, she would seduce him with desert of granadilla pulp folded into thick double cream. These days, she makes a less luscious version for them, using low fat Bulgarian yoghurt instead. A case of, cholesterolly speaking, the spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak.

My mother-in-law gave me a recipe for the most divinely decadent use of granadilla. One part fresh granadilla pulp, one can of condensed milk and a tub of thick cream are all folded in together and frozen.

I made this desert for Jacques the night we made the commitment to one another that we would do everything in our power, no matter what it took, to ensure that we had a baby. The night we acknowledged there was space in our relationship for a child and that not having a baby of our own was making us intensely unhappy. On this night the sweetness of the condensed milk granadilla comforted us. On the night I bargained with God…

I also made this desert the night my parents came to dinner, the night I was told that my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. On this night not even the sweetness of the condensed milk granadilla could comfort me. On the night I bargained with God…

My dad has this thing he does, which he has passed on to me. He starts every morning with an endless list of the things that he is grateful for. It is part prayer, part thanks. I call it The Gratitudes. It is a litany of things to remind us of our blessings; a loving partner, parents, family, a warm bed at night, clean sheets, good food, wonderful friends, a beautiful home filled with laughter, movies, books, medicine, therapy, lemons, salt-seawater, star jasmine, lemon verbena, crushed mint, being able to brush teeth with toothpaste and running water…
The granadilla reminds me of My Gratitudes. There are so many seeds it’s almost impossible to count them. Now as I eat granadillas, each seed symbolizes a blessing. The granadilla has, for me, become a meditative fruit. And so while I eat my morning yogurt with the pulp and a smidgen of honey, I eat the seeds and count my blessings. That way I eat mindfully. So that food does not become my escape, but rather becomes my comfort. And, sometimes, I bite into the seeds. To remind myself. To be sure.

A 2013 Update:
My parents have now been married for 45 years. My mom is still battling her cancer - bravely and stylishly. She is determined that she will live so that she may one day teach our child to dance. We are still battling to become a family. Bravely but not always stylishly. Yet we know, with absolute certainty, that our baby will find his or her way to us. Eventually.


  1. Such a beautiful piece on passion fruit and life! I'll eat it with more thoughtfulness from now on.

  2. I loved this when you first wrote it - and now I want to give you a big hug, and tell you "life happens!" - from someone who vowed never to tweet ;)

  3. And all of a sudden there he was...that beautiful little baby boy who has been prayed for and loved...long before he ever appeared on your horizon. May he bring you more love and joy than you ever anticipated or hoped for. Such a beautifully written piece by a beautiful woman filled with so much passion. I am so sorry that your beloved mom is so ill darling Sam. I will pray for her and for you too. Sending much love and hugs your way xx

  4. Could you please post the recipe for your passion fruit wedding cake? It sounds so delicious!

  5. wat 'n pragtige stuk leeswerk, en buite dra my granadillas vol - dus vanaand se poeding ter herdekking aan die vrou met die kamelia, teen die venster, eenmiddag in 'n jimmelhuis