I grew up in a Filipino family, full of adventurous eaters who love and enjoy all kinds of meals. From a young age, I was surrounded by a variety of different foods, and, though once the pickiest eater alive, these days I try being open to new experiences. Sometimes, a certain cuisine is nice simply for having had it once and thinking, “That was good. I probably won’t eat that again.” Which is to say, I will sample almost anything. There is really only one, admittedly broad, exception to my wide-ranging appetite: hot fruit.
Now, I understand that it’s trendy to stake some sort of “controversial” claim that is actually widely-held and not very shocking. But I do sometimes feel like that woman in the episode of the Twilight Zone who wakes up after surgery looking normal, in a world of alien-looking people, and screams because she’s been gaslit into thinking she’s ugly. I have never understood the appeal of hot fruit. Certainly not in its most universally praised application: fruit pie. Pie is one of those intensely sentimental artifacts of childhood that signify comfort and familiarity in a way that obviates the real truth, which is that pie is gross. Cherry pie is cloying, soggy, and vulgar; apple pie no better (mushy, bland, revolting). Let’s not even bring up blueberry. Of course, one might suggest that pie is not the best way to enjoy hot fruit — there is a whole world of cobblers, compotes, baked curried fruit, some insane thing called a hot fruit salad.
These all share one fatal flaw, which is mainly textural: the way the skin separates from the meat of the fruit, the horrible softness of what you’re eating. But it also seems like a conspiracy that people don’t mention how utterly tasteless fruit becomes after you’ve stuck it in an oven for 45 minutes (I assume. I don’t know how pie is made). Instead of partaking in one of nature’s great pleasures, the crisp crunch of an apple, a perfectly ripe strawberry, a fresh and fuzzy peach, it’s been deemed normal, even celebratory to turn these God-given wonders into baby food for adults.
There is a frisson of the healthy and pastoral in a hot fruit dish, a lightly prepared but whole-animal kind of innocence, something harkening back to the old days, scents wafting off windowsills and so forth. And, truly, I love that for people who love that. But fruit was meant to be enjoyed at room temperature, cold, or even frozen. If we’re talking about ice cream with fruit in it, I’m listening. Fruit in yogurt? delightful. Anything above “warm” and I will be politely but pointedly passing. And if I had to choose between a piece of grilled watermelon, an expertly-made cobbler, and a highly-processed candy bar, Mars, Inc wins every time.
Nicholas Russell is a writer from Las Vegas. His work has been featured in The Believer, Defector, Reverse Shot, Vulture, The Guardian, NPR Music, and The Point, among other publications.