“For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
Do I really have to cite a source for this one? I’d rather have you enjoy the beginning of “star-cross’d lovers” tragic story, as brilliantly expressed in music by Prokofiev.
Although it has nothing to do with pears, Shakespear’s play does have a nightingale that “sings on yon pomegranate tree,” which brings us somewhat closer to my whimsical holiday dessert.
A famous, albeit methaphorical, story of a much earlier pair of lovers, King Solomon and his beloved Sulamith, is immortalized in the Torah (Kesuvim) as the Song of Songs, authored by Shlomo haMelech (King Solomon) himself: “… if the pomegranates are in bloom…there I will give you my love.” Among the images conceived by the genius of Marc Chagall in his illustrations to Song of Songs, we can clearly discern pomegranate seeds, symbolizing peace, abundance, and prosperity.
This beautiful representation of a blooming pomegranate tree, complete with actual fruit, reminds us that the love story is not literal, but rather an allegory of deep love and devotion between the A-mighty and His people. Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest sages of all times, states,”All Kesuvim (Writings) in the Torah are holy, but Shir haShirim (Song of Songs) is holy of holies.”
Let’s extract all 613 seeds (or however many you find – there is always an argument about the number!) from a ripe pomegranate and put them aside. And let’s go down in history before King Solomon’s times, to meet yet another famous biblical hero, Shimshon (Samson) and examine yet another tragic, yet heroic love story. Shimshon got involved with a wrong girl. Happens to heroes sometimes, right? As he was rushing to keep his date with her, he was attacked by a lion, whom he successfully killed. Nothing stops a hero on the way to his lady! On the way back, though, he observed bees flying out of the lion’s carcass where they had stored honey, which gave him an idea for a well-known riddle: “From the devourer came forth food; and from the strong came out sweetness.”
Shimshon’s riddle is one of the reasons we use bees’ honey, rather than date honey, starting on Rosh Hashana and throughout the holiday season, ending with Simhas Torah. If you want to keep it vegan, feel free to use date honey, while keeping the same message: “from the strong came out sweetness,” from bee sting comes out honey, and from negative comes out positive. So simmer rum with honey and a dash of cinnamon, stirring it often.
Certainly, we should dip apples in honey, as I have explained here, but for this dessert, served on Shabbos Chol-ha-Moed (one of the four interim days of Sukkos), I had these juicy ripe pears, sliced paper-thin, for three important reasons:
- I’ve never made poached apples, although will experiment in the future.
- Our friends brought these pears, and it was too much of a temptation because…
- I love poached pears!Pour your rum and honey syrup, by now thickened and reduced by about half, over these translucent pear slices and show your love and devotion by sprinkling pomegranate seeds on top. Cover and let it cook itself to perfection in a fairly hot oven.Serve it chilled in your Sukkah (this is an Esrog box designed for my husband as a miniature Sukkah by a Russian artist Eduard Kryman) or at your holiday table, and may your year be both strong and sweet, and full of blessings!
- 3 medium size very ripe pears
- 1/2 cup rum
- 1/4 cup honey or more to taste
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 450 F.
- Combine rum, honey, and cinnamon. Bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer for about 20 minutes, until reduced by half. Stir frequently.
- Slice pears paper thin, arrange in baking pan. Pour rum/honey reduction over pears, top with pomegranate seeds. Bake covered for 10 minutes.
- Serve chilled.