25 July 2011

Fruit!

Elizabeth, Bonnie and I had a fruit feast! Sadly, I can't add the photos yet, but I will describe the experience in such luscious detail that you won't even need a picture.

First, the bargaining. This did not go well. We thought we might get a discount for buying so much fruit, but turns out that it's actually more expensive to buy fruit in large quantities . . . or something. In any case, most of the fruit and vegetable vendors have small scales and weigh the produce to determine the price, so it's also possible that we paid fair price. Grand total: 110 rupees. Breakdown: 40 for three mangoes (one of each of the types you find in McLeod), 45 for a bunch of litchi berries, and 25 for a papaya. He wouldn't take a rupee less.

Then we headed down to the kora to eat our fruit. We got many strange looks for making such a mess with so much fruit, but the only lasting damage was a lot of fruit juice dripped on the cement, and that didn't hurt anyone.

The small green mango: medium sweetness, stringy, pleasant size. The baby size, green mangoes are aesthetically pleasing with their golden yellow interior and lime green exterior. It's the perfect size to get a mango rush without being overwhelming.

The football mango: firm, least sweet, most beautiful. These mangoes are my favorite because of their dual-toned exterior--crimson and green. They are the least messy and the least sweet, but their smooth texture is irresistible. Also, it's fun to say football mango.

The yellow mango: all juice, very messy, very sweet. The yellow mango was responsible for most of the juice splattered everywhere. I think it's almost too sweet, though if you're in it for the sugar this is your best friend. Impossible to eat without making a mess on your face.

The papaya: sad day! The papaya was not at all ripe. None of us knew how to tell if a papaya is ripe or not, but perhaps its firmness and greenness should have been the telling factors. The fruit man assured us that it was perfectly ripe. Actually, its seeds weren't even developed and it tasted like a papaya-flavored watermelon rind. We fed it to a cow on the kora who was really pleased to eat it.

The litchi berries: these little guys have a sweet, tangy flavor. Their skin looks like a dragon hide and they hide an enormous seed under their milky white, semi-transparent flesh, but don't be frightened--they are a really delightful treat. Just be careful if you are holding them when you come across a pack of monkeys because they will attack you to get the berries!

In Tibetan culture, fruit is dessert. A few nights per month, Amalah will bring some fruit home--cantaloupe, watermelon, litchi berries, football mangoes, and once some sour little crabapples--cut it into slices and place it in a dish in the middle of the table. I really don't know how my host family manages to eat without spilling juice everywhere because I always make a mess on dessert nights. The natural sweetness of fruit is the only dessert that my host family likes, though sometimes they'll take t-i-n-y portions of chocolate just to try it. (They were shocked the first time they offered me a chocolate and I popped a whole one into my mouth instead of breaking off 1/20th.) For a while Elizabeth's host family would offer her a banana after dinner every night. She was really confused until she realized that it was dessert. The only time I've had bananas at home was when I was sick and Gyurme bought them to help my stomach.

Since I missed my host family's birthdays (apparently all three of them were born on June 4) I am buying them each their favorite fruit as a late birthday present. Yesterday I brought home a pineapple for Gyurme, but sadly it was not quite ripe (despite the fruit man assuring me that it was) and had a few rotten spots.

In Indian culture fruit is not dessert, but it is the pride of the country. I learned from a billboard in the airport that 50% of the world's mangoes are produced in India. There are plenty of brands of mango juice available here, none of which I particularly like because they add sugar to mango juice (isn't it sweet enough already?!).

A few more notes on fruit here: there are a lot of bees on the fruit at the stand. That used to make me not buy fruit, but now I don't so much care. They have pomegranates and apples, but they are extremely expensive. An apple is 80 rupees and a pomegranate was more, though I can't recall the exact price. I've seen little yellow-green spheres that might be lemons or perhaps limes. They look like lemons disguised as limes. Other available fruits: apricots, plums, and pears.

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