Leaf of the Day: Quince

It has not been the best start to December as today my wonderful little Sony Vaio laptop died. It has been everywhere with me, surviving my very cavalier treatment of all things mechanical, back packing in some very bizarre tropical locations and many many airline trips. It was early in the morning when it refused to reboot and after a moment of feeling bereft and forlorn I suddenly felt liberated.. no email, no research, no radio, no blog, no skype, freeeeeedom!

So what did I do? I went out, looked around at the world and remembered the time I refer to fondly as BC (before computers). I am not sure it was better but some aspects of life were less pressured. Perhaps though, it tied people down to one place more, I certainly would not have moved abroad willingly and sold my 1500 books if the Internet had not existed and now freelancers had the option of working from many different parts of the world with much greater ease.
However Chris has got me a stand-in now, so after the small delightful hiccough I am back to my task master blog.

My liberation only went as far as the computer and it was not really enough of an excuse to stop drawing. This week I have to get the next submission piece done for the course,so this weeks posts may be boring, short and repetitive. The deadline has come so quickly and I still haven’t decided which fruit to paint as a “finished” piece and it has to be in the post next Monday. Am I enjoying the course? In parts I am and I need deadlines to stop myself sliding into indolence and sloth so for that alone I will continue. I am not sure how much I am learning but that is something hard to evaluate, probably until the end of the course.

So today I drew a quince. Cydonia oblonga,
It’s a large rather ungainly looking fruit with definite shoulders. There is much to say about the quince. The magical fruit that turns red when cooked. An ancient fruit whose use has been recorded in Roman cookery books and whose cultivation may predate apples.

A favourite still life by Juan Sanchez Cotan the Spanish priest and painter “Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber” 1602. This style of hanging fruit to make pleasing compositions has been much copied since but aside from aesthetic composition, the very practical reason for hanging fruit in the 17th century was in order to keep it fresh. It is a very beautiful contemplative painting.

We ate the delicious dulce de membrillo with manchego cheese in Spain, but my only experience of it the UK, apart from growing the pretty Chinese japonica, Chaenomeles japonica, was from the much loved “Owl and the Pussycat”

Lear’s lovley little sketch.

They dined on mince and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon. “

Dining on the unknown quince sounded so exotic and was much more a source of wonder to me than the runcible spoon. But was the quince cooked? The variety I have here would have to be cooked. Lear in his extensive Mediterranean travels would have certainly come across quince and he also went to the Middle East where there is a variety which is eaten raw, or perhaps the Owl and the Pussycat had slices of the Spanish membrillo with their honey?
There is so much more to write about the quince and no time left.