Exotica then and now

A dear friend, who is 67, is visiting these days. He had some wonderful stories to regale at dinner last night.

He was a child born in Scotland in the middle of World War II.

He said he first saw a banana when he was 11. Endlessly fascinating it was too, he added.

He was told that a pomegranate was delicious and when he first saw the bright red skin of a pomegranate, he bit into it and suddenly realised ‘yeuchh!‘ as the bitter juices of the skin hit his palate. Then someone told him, you only eat the seeds, not the skin.

He described how he and his childhood friend, K, who is a celebrated TV producer in the UK, once stole an avocado pear from K’s mother’s pantry. They had heard adults swoon over how delicious it was! They took the avocado pear and a knife and sat in the woods. They cut it into little chunks and with the first chunk, went ‘yeuchh!‘ again. What were those adults on about, he said they wondered! Avocados really are an acquired taste.

He said he had heard of a mango long before he saw one, so he had an idea what it might look like and how it might be eaten.

All this came from a simple question he was asked: have you ever eaten raw tamarind?

He added, “What did you want to know? You still think I would have seen a tamarind let alone eaten one if I had never seen a banana till I was 11?”

Even as I was doubling over with laughter – he is a great story-teller! – I could not help but remember a story from 3 years ago, when my god son was 5. He lives in London.

His mother took him to India, where on Delhi roads, he noticed a cow. “Look, Ma, a cow!” Ever the devoted Indian parent, keen to seize on an educational opportunity , the mother said, “Did you know cows give milk?”

Two days of radio silence ensued from the child, which the mother may have noticed but did not have time to panic over, as usually happens when one is on the annual visit to India.

Then he broke the silence, “Ma, but milk comes from Tesco!”

Ironic, really, that to a child born of Indian parents, a cow should be exotic!

Between my friend’s and my godson’s generations, what are we missing?

Are we swapping the pleasure of having mangoes in the supermarkets all the year round for the sense to know that they should really not be sold as ‘fresh’ fruit?

As the din of ‘eat local’ grows in the green brigade, do we even know any more what is local to us, if it were not for the elaborate food labelling laws of the land?

What is fresh anyway?

Why just the kids, even British adults seem not to know where their food comes from.

Sometimes I am uncertain if all our modernisation is a good thing, except for us to be able to blog about such stories and share with virtual friends in the blogosphere, many of whom, no thanks to technology, one may never meet!

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