Quince is a fruit that belongs to the pome fruits family, and it is a cousin of apples and pears. It is golden in colour, with a creamy white colour when cut, and is usually too hard, sour or bitter to be eaten raw.
But when it is cooked, the colour changes from light pink to a deep rich orange-red. It holds its shape very well with cooking and is hence rather ideal for the making of stews, jams, jellies and other fruity delights.
Quince is very popular in several parts of Europe and in the Middle East. In the olden days, quinces were exchanged by the Romans as love offerings. Ancient Greeks offer quince as a love offering to the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite (Greek equivalent of Venus). In Croatia, when a baby is born, a quince tree is planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life. In many of these cultures, quince is associated with love and marriage.
Quince paste is thick jam made from boiling the cut fruit with sugar and lemon juice, then pulping the sweetened fruits. I bought a packet of quince paste during my last trip to Hong Kong. These were supposed to be really good and they came all the way from Catalunya, Spain.
The Spanish has a nicer and more delicious name for quince paste - dulce de membrillo, which roughly translates to candy of membrillo (as quince is called in Spanish). This quince paste is cooked into a reddish orange wobbly block and it is very convenient for eating and serving because you can cut off thin slices or little cubes as and when you want to eat it. (I think It looks so much more presentable this way.. vs "digging" it out of a bottle as with most jam.)
In Spain, it is commonly eaten with Manchego cheese - placing a slice of the membrillo between two slices of cheese and securing the trio with a toothpick is a very pretty way to serve it.
I think it goes well with a nice piece of butter toast or bagel at breakfast. It can also be added into salads for an interesting kick, or with rolled up with prosciutto ham for a special appetizer.
Somehow, I think dulce de membrillo belongs to the category of food I would classify as "romantic". There is just something whimsical about eating the "Fruit of Love".