Being that I’m called Pear and my blog is called The Furious Pear Pie, it’s possibly a bit weird that there are no recipes involving pears in any way, shape, or form on this blog. Some people assume I deem eating pears equal to self-cannibalisation: I hold no such beliefs. It’s just that the right time or the right recipe hadn’t yet come.
Just before I went to Thailand, my parents brought me fruit from the very tree I am named after, so obviously the moment arrived.
Your real name is the name that you want. I have friends who have chosen names for themselves different to the one picked out for them at birth, and it is simple courtesy to call them by their true name, the name they want. Anything less is, at best, an obstinately rude way to treat other people: why persist in expecting people to answer to a name that is not theirs?
The idea of using different names for one person isn’t new to me, or to any Thai person. There’s your legal name (first name, surname) and then there’s your nickname. Your first name may be chosen just because it sounds nice, or you may be named after another loved one. In some cases, a person knowledgeable in astrology and lettering may be consulted to provide the most auspicious meaning and combination of characters. (A few quite superstitious Thai people occasionally change their legal names based on such advice; not everyone holds to it, just like not every non-Thai person believes in horoscopes or superstitions.)
Your nickname is actually the name you’ll be called by most often in daily life. Your friends and family will almost always use this name. Your nickname may simply be a shortened version of your first name, or another word entirely. It may be onomatopoeic, a colour, a flower, almost anything. These names can also change.
Both my legal name and my nickname are tied to the temple at Wimbledon, Wat Buddhapadipa, whose murals were painted by a team of Thai artists. During their time working at the temple, my parents grew close to a particularly kind monk and asked him for advice on choosing a suitably auspicious name. My parents eventually decided on พิมพ์พรรณ (Pimpan), which means ‘beautiful’. (The less said about this the better.)
I was also named after my mother’s first craving. While she carried me, my mother wanted English pears, appreciating their mild fragrance and cool sweet flesh. There was a pear tree on the temple grounds from which she picked and ate fruit. I was given the nickname แพร์ (transliteration of ‘pear’) simply because they were an especially pleasing fruit to my mother.
Coincidentally, one usage of the word ลูก (luk) refers to the reproductive outcome of almost any living thing, from humans and children to trees and fruit. It’s used as a noun or a prefix when (presuming you’re an adult) you’re referring to your own or other people’s children, and when you’re asking for certain amount of a particular fruit at the market. I am, in every sense, ลุกแพร์. You are what you eat.
The pear tree at Wimbledon still gives fruit. After being gifted with my share, I waited til they became seemingly ripe and fragrant and attempted most of one raw. Usually a not-quite-ripe pear is tolerable, but in this case, not even the power of vanity and sentimentality made the thing any less unpleasant, grainy and astringent to eat.
It doesn’t matter, though, because pears take well to being lightly cooked, which is exactly what I did with the rest of them. I used palm sugar because I love its complex sweetness and how it gives a gentle lift to anything it’s added to. Pears can be a bit tricky to ripen perfectly; they might all come at once and you can’t eat them fast enough before they turn, or they never seem to improve, so cooking them solves a lot of problems.
PEARS IN PALM SUGAR SYRUP
Makes about 2 – 3 servings over or with something else. Can be kept chilled for several days and re-warmed gently if liked.
I liked these stewed pears with some porridge, and I think they’d be good over yoghurt, ice cream, alongside a rich cake, or inside a pie. Add further aromatics as you like. Cinnamon and ginger are good if obvious choices.
2 fat pears
1 lime (or lemon, if preferred)
2 – 3 tablespoons palm sugar, lightly packed
Peel, core, and segment the pears. I like to have large, tender pieces, but the size is up to you–adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Put pear segments into a medium saucepan with the squeezed juice from the lime and 2 tablespoons palm sugar. Cook over a medium-low heat for a few minutes until the fruit has given off fragrant juice and is fork-tender with glassy flesh.
Cool slightly before serving.