I went to the market the other day in search of sustenance of the sweet and juicy kind. My mouth was set for oranges, succulent and plump. Imagine my dismay to discover that oranges were in short supply, so short as to offer only the hard, yellow, sour, seeded varieties. It was too early for good oranges, the white capped produce clerk sniffed, oranges were for Christmas.
And he was right, for it was oranges that had finally revealed to me the non-existence of Santa Claus when as a girl of seven I had cannily counted the number of oranges in the refrigerator on Christmas Eve only to find on the following morning the count was one short, due, no doubt, to the missing fruit nestled in my Santa stocking. I had my parents dead to rights but confronted with the evidence neither of them would cop a plea and I was left knowing I was correct but unacknowledged – a state of mind I would find familiar in my later dealings with men.
Should I have wanted apples, the produce department would be my Ali Baba’s cave for there were apples of every shape, size, variety, color and price. From the “throw a shrimp on the barbie” Braeburns from Down Under, to red Delicious that came with their own little tripod feet and stood like plump ballerinas to the Granny Smiths so packed with pectin that they demanded to be made into pies. A plethora of perishables.
But I was not in the mood for apples. Apples required too much chewing and fortitude; they were too crunchy and American. I needed something more decadent, more tropical, softer and smoother and wetter. Like an orange.
As I started to get grumpy, my glance skewed around and I saw creatively piled ovals that looked familiar. What ho! Pears! Deeper observation revealed that this must be pear season for there were at least six varieties of pears – Bartlett, Asian, Red, Anjou and more. I ask myself when was the last time I really thought about a pear?
Often the subject for 19th century still life paintings, the contemporary pear seems to have lost some of its luster and appeal. The pear has become somewhat pedestrian except for the occasional holiday reference in conjunction with partridges. Once thought of as extremely provocative, the pear shared with the tomato the dubious distinction of being of an aphrodisiac.
Then I saw a small sign reading “mangoes” but I was uncertain whether the mango was the rather large globular, yellow tinted, thin-skinned, orange fleshed and black seeded one, or the even larger yellow skinned, impossible to peel, densely fleshed fruit.
As you can see, I have drawn the circle of experimentation around certain areas of my life and within those perimeters fruit has not fallen. It must also be remembered that as a native born Pennsylvanian whose comestible boundaries were stretched by tangerines, I am easily confused by unfamiliar fruit. In any event, I think one of these fruits was mangoes and the other papayas.
Those ready for a walk on the wild side should buy a kiwi. Not only is this fruit named after a brand of shoe polish but it has a sense of humor. Looking like a miniature coconut, the kiwi is small and hairy but when bisected boasts a bright green interior dotted with black seeds, a color scheme right out of the 1950’s. It immediately put me in mind of a ’57 Ford or Thunderbird.
I considered my options. Mango rhymes with tango, one of the most romantic dances, and with fandango, one of the most liberating. Mango is also a conjunction of two common words, man and go which led me to consider its digestive actions. Lastly, among the hill tribes of western Borneo mango is the word which describes the mold on the under belly of a courting frog.
In conclusion, you can see how, within moments a simple word like mango can lead the thoughtful man or woman down corridors hinted at but heretofore undreamed of. I reviewed the alternatives and then remembered the lessons of Eden. I eschewed apples and the serendipitous charms of pears and papayas; I postponed the promise of oranges and cartoon humor of the kiwi. It was a mango for me as I hummed a tune by Astor Piazzolla.