Indignity Vol. 1, No. 38: Way down yonder.


The Ripe Unconscious

I DREAMED I was walking through the autumn woods—possibly the woods were in the park—and I was plucking ripe pawpaws off the trees to eat. The fruits came away freely in the hand, and their custardy insides came out easily in turn. I don't think I'd ever seen a pawpaw; my subconscious, working off information it had picked up through the years, decided they would be like cherimoyas but more oval. Pawpaws grow wild in the woods in Maryland, where I grew up, but they didn't grow in the woods I had handy, or if they did I didn't know about it. I just knew the song about the pawpaw patch, folklore without the folklife. 

Pawpaws aren't really rare or unusual, on their own terms. It's just that we don't live on those terms anymore. Our infrastructure is built to fly in produce from the Southern Hemisphere out of season, but not to collect and distribute a soft and fast-ripening autumn fruit from the outskirts of town. Now and then I would read about pawpaws, and I would wonder what it was like to eat them, and then I would go back to eating all the things I usually ate. 

The pawpaws that showed up in my dream were delicious. People clearly seem to find them delicious in real life, too. "At its best, its mildly rich and aromatic, yellowish pulp pleases nearly every palate," Artemis Ward wrote, in my copy of his 1923 Encyclopedia of Food.

I don't usually take much advice or guidance from my dreams, but the subject matter here seemed unusually literal and direct. So after I woke up I went on the internet to try to figure out where some pawpaws might be had. There was a story about them in the New York Times from last year; the story pointed me to a man in New Jersey. His website said he had pawpaws for sale. We traded emails, and he confirmed he would have them for a few more weeks. 

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