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Saturday 13 Jul 2024

Consider the Prune
David Simmonds

Consider the humble prune. For decades the butt of jokes, now the darling behind such headlines as, “Are Your Grandmother’s Prunes the New Superfood?” and “Channel 4 Names Prunes as ‘the Food of the Future’.” Larry Curdle has, and he sees a big opportunity.

An annual celebration of the prune?

Readers will remember Mr Curdle. He was the moving force behind the ambitious, but, ultimately, unsuccessful, attempt to establish a Rice Pudding Hall of Fame in Wellington, Ontario. Now, Mr Curdle wants to see Wellington host an annual festival celebrating the importance of the prune in contemporary lifestyle. The Wellington Times caught up with him last week, and we got an earful.

“First of all, let’s get one thing on the table. Prunes, if you didn’t know, are dried plums. Pound for pound, they’re as good for you as anything else you can name,” he said.

“Prunes contain scads of vitamin A, which improves your vision, and are full of antioxidants. Prunes are high in potassium, which is good for the heart and bones. They contain fibre and sorbitol, which act as a great laxative. They are loaded with iron as well as and boron and copper and vitamin K. Moreover, prunes taste good.

“Here, try some,” he says, offering me a bowl, loaded to the gills with the blackish coloured delicacy. Not wanting to offend my host, I gingerly remove a prune from the bowl and ingest it. To my surprise, it is sticky, sweet and chewy; n bad at all. I reach for another. I feel an elevated sense of regularity almost immediately.

A local prune festival is a must.

Why is a prune festival, in Wellington, Ontario, a good idea? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have it in, say California, the source of most of the plums that will transform, butterfly-like, into prunes? Why not hold it in the Okanagan, say.

“I’ve looked into that,” asserts Curdle. “I found they did have a California Prune Festival, in Yuba City, which started in 1988. Then in 2001, they changed the name to the California Dried Plum festival, but they closed it down the next year. I guess you can’t put lipstick on a pig and expect it to be anything other than s pig.

“For the last fifteen years, no one has stepped up to the plate in Canada or the United States. I say we’re just as entitled, as is anywhere else, to go for a Prunefest centered here in Wellington, of course. Maybe our experience in the canning business gives us some legitimacy as well.”

[Reporter’s note: I checked the internet. Curdle appears to be right. As consolation, you might consider travelling to England to attend the Pershore Plum Festival on the weekend of August 25, 2018; it’s a four-time winner of “Best Festival and Event” in Worcestershire.]

So why should the Wellington Country host another festival? Why should Wellington face the prospect of yet another parade? Can we avoid such events?

“That’s an easy one.” Curdle replies. “Think of the synergies: prunes and wine; prunes and epicurean recipes; prunes and bachelorette parties; prunes and Fibre Fest. The County has such a reputation for being trendy; we could probably get away with holding a carbolic soap festival: people will just assume it’s good because it comes from the County. If the County goes prune, so will most of the rest of civilization.

“As for more parades, why not play to your strengths? Wellington already boasts a vibrant regularity community. There’d be interest from the get-go. As well,

“Wellington is known for its giant vegetable parades. Having an extra parade with fruit would be a piece of cake, especially when you consider that you have no problems with transporting giant prunes. We could have a Prune King and Queen headline the parade.

“We could dress a troupe of baton twirlers in colourful prune costumes. We could offer prune snacks to parade participants, which might help the parade move along briskly. Heck, there’s no limit on what we can do!”

Let’s hope the ideas of Mr Curdle bear fruit.

Mr Curdle is enthusiastic and his enthusiasm is palpable. His optimism is unshakeable. Let’s hope his ideas bear some fruit, even if it is only dried fruit. Who knows, maybe his new project will make the Rice Pudding Hall of Fame seem like a sensible proposal.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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