St. Martin des Poires

(Nothing actually crude, but a lot of mostly high-falutin’ sextalk that might give some people the fantods.)

In yesterday’s mail, a postcard from Ryan Tamares (a Stanford friend who is now socially but not postally distant from me) with this crate label from the 1920s and 1930s, featuring a character I’ll call the Bartlett Pear Kid:


(#1) We’ve been here before, in my 2/14/12 posting “Suggestive”, where I wrote: “The newsboy is hustling pears, but to modern eyes the label suggests something more salacious.”

I pursued this example further in a 6/14/16 posting “Crate labels”, which I’ll take up in a little while. But first the literally fabulous history of the Bartlett Pear Kid, who eventually became St. Martin des Poires, B.P.I.

Martin, Saint of the Streets. From the Encyclopedia Fabulosa:

Martin Williams Bartlett, later St. Martin des Poires, B.P.I., was a lay brother of the Brothers of Perpetual Indulgence (a breakaway religious order headquartered in the Castro district of San Francisco, loosely affiliated with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence) who was canonized as a Saint of the Streets by Willis, Absolute Empress V of the Imperial Council of San Francisco, in 1970. He is the patron saint of stud hustlers, male models, the hospitality and service industries, and all those who are gender-nonconforming.

Martin grew up in Sacramento CA, where at an early age he exhibited an exceptional ability to provide sexual pleasure to older boys, despite being occasionally harassed as a faggot by some ungrateful recipients of his services and suffering the censure of his schoolteachers. On attaining precocious puberty, at the age of 10, he devoted himself to polishing this ability into a career as a legendary street hustler in the fruit-growing towns of the Sacramento Delta during the years of the Great Depression. He was famous for his unfailing generosity, indefatigable cheerfulness, and extraordinary versatility in male sexual services of every kind.

As a 14-old-old, he was immortalized as the Bartlett Pear Kid, an icon of the Sacramento River Association, in a notable crate label [#1 above]. To satisfy demands for public modesty, the association altered what Martin was hustling on the streets — not his fresh and vigorous young body, but instead the daily newspaper, leaving only his shirt unbuttoned down to his navel as a hint at the original charming but undeniably shocking design (the original drawings seem unfortunately to have been lost).

As he aged and the rigors of life on the streets began to wear on him, the association created a position for him at their workers’ service center, which already offered recreational facilities, hot meals, medical services, educational opportunities, and light entertainment. There he provided his ministrations as a perk for male workers in the fields and orchards, and in this role, lived modestly but in relative comfort, plying his useful trade with great skill for many years.

St. Martin de Porres. Many contributions here, but the primary model is the story of St. Martin de Porres. From Wikipedia:


(#2) Image of Martin from the Facebook page of St. Martin of Porres Catholic Church in Salt Lake City UT

Martin de Porres Velázquez, O.P. [the Dominican Order] (9 December 1579 – 3 November 1639), was a Peruvian lay brother of the Dominican Order who was beatified in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI and canonized in 1962 by Pope John XXIII. He is the patron saint of mixed-race people, barbers, innkeepers, public health workers, and all those seeking racial harmony.

He was noted for his work on behalf of the poor, establishing an orphanage and a children’s hospital. He maintained an austere lifestyle, which included fasting and abstaining from meat. Among the many miracles attributed to him were those of levitation, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures, and an ability to communicate with animals.

…  [Martin] was born in the city of Lima, Viceroyalty of Peru, … the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman, Don Juan de Porres, and Ana Velázquez, a freed slave from African-Native American descent. … He grew up in poverty and, when his mother could not support him, Martin was sent to a primary school for two years, and then placed with a barber/surgeon to learn the medical arts.

…Under Peruvian law, descendants of Africans and Native Americans were barred from becoming full members of religious orders. The only route open to Martin was to ask the Dominicans of Holy Rosary Priory in Lima to accept him as a donado, a volunteer who performed menial tasks in the monastery in return for the privilege of wearing the habit and living with the religious community. At the age of 15 he asked for admission to the Dominican Convent of the Rosary in Lima and was received first as a servant boy, and as his duties grew he was promoted to almoner.

Martin continued to practice his old trades of barbering and healing and was said to have performed many miraculous cures. He also took on kitchen work, laundry, and cleaning. After eight years at Holy Rosary, the prior Juan de Lorenzana, decided to turn a blind eye to the law and permit Martin to take his vows as a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic. Holy Rosary was home to 300 men, not all of whom accepted the decision of De Lorenzana: one of the novices called Martin a “mulatto dog”, while one of the priests mocked him for being illegitimate and descended from slaves.

… When Martin was 34, after he had been given the religious habit of a lay brother, he was assigned to the infirmary, where he was placed in charge and would remain in service until his death at the age of 59. He was known for his care of the sick.

Crate labels. Further contributions from my 6/14/16 posting:

Continuing the story of commercial art forms in popular culture that started with tie art this morning (“Most unusual ties”, here): the art of crate labels, for shipping fruit, vegetables, and other foodstuffs in wooden crates, on the railroad, from where they were produced to where they are consumed. Along with the long-distance distribution system (with its major hub in Chicago) made possible by the railroads came schemes of brand-naming and long-distance advertising for the products. most notably in the colorful labels (designed largely by unknown artists) on the crates (the labels are now collectors’ items); the heyday of the labels was in the early 20th century.

… the brand names, many of which are slangy. In an earlier posting (“Suggestive”, from 2/14/12) I looked at two suggestive brand names: Hustler brand California Bartletts [pears] and Gay Johnny brand Texas vegetables. Hustler was before ‘prostitute’ time, but well within the ‘con man, grifter’ zone, so although the label showed a kid hustling newspapers energetically, the name was not entirely innocent.

On the Sacramento River Association, a trade organization of growers in the Delta, as depicted in “Sacramento River Association and Nevada County, Calif.” (1936), a silent film 5 min. long, by Henry Dart Greene (from the Internet Archive):


(#3) A 1930s-era SRA crate label for Bartletts


(#4) A 1940s-era SRA crate label for Bartletts

Description: The film shows men and women packing pears at the Sacramento River Association. There are also scenes of pears being loaded onto the Pacific Fruit Express. Lug labels for the following brands can be seen: American Beauty, Capital Pak, Gold Crest, River Boy, and Royal Gold. Three quarters of the way through the film, the location changes to Nevada County. Footage includes an area several miles outside of Red Dog and You Bet. The film ends with scenes of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad.

But the pears, doctor, the pears. From Wikipedia:


(#5) A pear nonet, or possibly baseball team (photo from the Specialty Produce site)

The Williams’ bon chrétien pear, commonly called the Williams pear or the Bartlett pear in the United States and Canada, is the most commonly grown variety of pear in most countries outside Asia.

It is a cultivar (cultivated variety) of the species Pyrus communis, commonly known as the European Pear. The fruit has a bell shape, considered the traditional pear shape in the west, and its green skin turns yellow upon later ripening, although red-skinned derivative varieties exist. It is considered a summer pear, not as tolerant of cold as some varieties. It is often eaten raw, but holds its shape well when baked, and is a common choice for canned or other processed pear uses.

The origins of this variety are uncertain. “Bon Chrétien” (Good Christian) is named after Francis of Paola, a holy man whom King Louis XI of France had called to his deathbed as a healer in 1483. Francis offered the king a pear seed from his native Calabria with instructions to plant and care. Hence the pear tree was called “Good Christian”. The Williams pear is thought to date from 1765 to 1770 from the yard of an Aldermaston, England, schoolmaster named Mr. John Stair, giving rise to the now-obscure synonyms ‘Aldermaston’ pear and ‘Stairs’ pear. A nurseryman named Williams later acquired the variety, and after introducing it to the rest of England, the pear became known as the Williams Pear. However, the pear’s full name is Williams’ Bon Chretien, or “Williams’ good Christian.”

In 1799 James Carter imported several Williams trees into the United States, and they were planted on the grounds of Thomas Brewer in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The Massachusetts estate was later acquired by Enoch Bartlett of Dorchester, Massachusetts. Unaware of their origin, Bartlett named the pears after himself and introduced the variety into the United States. It was not realised that Bartlett and Williams Pears were the same until 1828, when new trees arrived from Europe. By that time the Bartlett variety had become vastly popular in the United States, and they are still generally known as Bartlett pears in the US and Canada, although there are about 150 other synonyms worldwide.

… Liqueurs: The Williams pear is used in making both Poire Williams, a colourless brandy, and Belle de Brillet, an infused cognac.


(#6) A bottle of Poire Williams liqueur, with pear inside

The pear is also very popular in western Balkans where it is distilled into brandy known as Viljamovka, similar to Poire Williams but often with higher alcohol percentage. Some producers of Viljamovka include an entire pear inside each bottle. This is achieved by attaching the bottle to a budding pear tree so that the pear will grow inside it.

And then there’s this Specialty Produce rhapsody to the Bartlett pear as food:

Applications: Bartlett pears are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as baking, boiling, and grilling. They can be eaten fresh, out-of-hand, added to salads for a sweet flavor, sliced into wedges and served on cheese boards, or blended into a granita to top ice cream. Bartlett pears can also be layered in sandwiches such as grilled cheese, used as a topping over pizza, or chopped with other fruits and stuffed in poblano chiles in Mexico’s independence day dish known as chiles en noganda. Also, the pears can be smoked over a charcoal grill for added flavor or sliced to add a sweet flavor to cocktails with tequila and mezcal. Bartlett pears also make excellent preserves, syrups, and chutneys, can be dried, and make great additions to cakes, muffins, crisps, and quick bread. Bartlett pears compliment gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, garlic, onions, shallots, poblano chiles, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, pomegranate seeds, strawberry, apple, spinach, pork, chicken, lamb, oysters, oregano, rosemary, parsley, mint, cilantro, Thai basil, lemongrass, matcha green tea powder, cinnamon, allspice, and honey. They will keep up to three weeks when stored in the refrigerator and a little over one year when stored in the freezer.

As far as I know, they don’t disinfect surfaces, wash windows, or play sweet music, but still there’s a lot you can do with Bartletts.

The rites of the Poirists. Now we are in a position to delve into the practices of the Poirist sect of the B.P.I., which specifically reveres Martin Williams Bartlett as transfigured into St. Martin des Poires. The sacred symbol of the Poirists is of course a Bartlett pear as a sign of the male genitals, its neck standing for the shaft of the holy penis, its bulb for the holy scrotum and its precious contents, the testicles of St. Martin, source of his saintly seminal essence. (And the dried stem for the explosion of his semen in ejaculation.)

More specifically, the prime symbol of Poirism is a half-Bartlett (which miraculously never rots, but is forever fresh), with a hollow in the center of the bulb that stands, simultaneously, for the ultimate fount of the saint’s seminal essence and also for the depths of the saint’s miraculous and infinitely penetrable anus:


(#7) The holy half-Bartlett, sometimes known vulgarly (but conveniently) as a Bart

This brings us to the holiest mystery of Poirism, the rite of the eupoirist (technically, the poirist eucharist), in which a Poirist priest offers a ritually blessed Bart, its hollow filled with cheese symbolizing perfect Martinity, to a (male) celebrant to eat, to make the manifold St. Martin into a part of the celebrant’s own body (and simultaneously to make the celebrant’s body into a part of St. Martin’s, in perfect union).

Here I must confess that even Poirism has fallen prey to the scourge of religious schism: there are now two passionately opposed sects, divided by the issue of what sort of cheese should fill the holy hollow in the eupoirist.

Alas, there are the caprists, insisting that only chèvre goat cheese (standing for the earthy scent of a goat buck in rut) will do; versus the salists, just as strongly committed to briny feta cheese (standing for the surprising saltiness of fresh semen). Previous doctrinal battles have dismissed tangy cheddar and sharp and salty hard cheeses like pecorino romana, but the caprist / salist divide deems to be unbridgeable.

In any case, the eating of the Bart is usually followed by a convivial drinking of fingers of Poire Williams in thin crystal glasses. This is not part of the religious ritual proper, but is a pleasant social custom that binds together Poirists in brotherhood and is also a customary easy segue into ecstatic sexual connection between the celebrants.

In memory of St. Martin des Poires, who exhorts us always to the pleasures of our bodies.

Do this, in memory of him.

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