Sweet nectars raised from the ground; vivid memories of an infancy long gone.
There are many flavors that the palate has been denied off for many years, still they’re desired. Living in an island that offers them unconditionally, anyone would think easy to find them. It has been the opposite, maybe the blame should fall on not looking hard enough. It has happen with the guava, of which a tree stood proudly in the backyard of the household where in the past the family lived.
Since then, decades have come and gone, and the guava has eluded me like an undesirable person. There have been random encounters with its tree, either too early where its branches are nude only cover by the green leaves, or when the fruit is still on its way to maturity. Each time left with the desire to satisfy the palate, to put an end to an eternal prelude of a mortal kiss in which a fruit will become part of me.
Ah, Guarapo! A refreshment squeezed out of the sugar cane by brute force, either letting your marble teeth do the crushing and suck its content, or taking a back seat while a machine those the work and a glass awaits patiently for the nectar to fill its void. A few days ago a cooking channel used it to make a drink; I looked with desire wishing my mouth could taste the sugary juicy liquid. Vega Baja has in its soil marks of my infancy and the past scraped in its womb of the sugar refinery. It was there were I first tasted the guarapo, when the #2 road was filled once with delectable local goodies.
On Sunday we traveled the coast line on our way to Arecibo, my husband was on the lookout for some guarapo. “Maybe when we come back we should try the #2 road, we might hit jackpot. It’s the only place I could think of that might have a roadside stall selling it.” On our way back we made our usual stop at a house in Barceloneta that sells local vegetables, were I find good green peppers and my husband enjoys fresh coconut water. I got out of the car while Mr. Hernández stayed with the kids. The owner greeted me with a smile asking me what I wanted. I looked at the green peppers and asked for a pound. Then I noticed a basket that my hands were touching, curious I asked the man what the round green yellow pear shaped fruit was. He said “Guayaba”. An excitement rushed through my body exploding in a smile that expressed itself as a “Oh my God!”. The astonish look on the owners face was priceless, I wanted to tell him, “Yes, I’m surprise to see a guayaba”. Instead, I ask for the price and took away my treasure showing it to my daughter. The car smelled delicious something my daughter did not liked, but truly it was an aroma I enjoyed breath at a time.
The story does not end here, for one more treasure must be found, and found it was. At the moment we turned to exit the #2 road, there it was a big white wooden sign that said in vivid scarlet letters “Guarapo”. A swift u-turn took us back in track and there the line of cars alongside the road stood. A few people waited including my husband, and I stayed in the car explaining my daughter what the big fuzz was about. What was the juice, how it was extracted and how much she would like it. My son nodded in agreement to everything we said.
Once in my hands I could not stop smiling, neither my husband. After the photo was taken, a stir of the ice cubes to make the freshly squeezed juice colder, I tasted it. It was as if I was transported to my childhood again, the sweetness was still vivid in my palate for it had not disappear like others. I turned to my daughter who waited impatiently to have her turned, and as she sipped her expression changed to that of disgust. She hated it and so did my son, who would have thought that sugar based refreshment could not be a delight for children! With disappointment, I turned to my drink and forgot what happened with a sip.
Back home I sliced the guava fruit, this time determined that my daughter will like it, and offered a piece. My heart was pleased to know she had indeed loved it, except for the smell. Then I sat down in my sofa to finally put an end to a prelude so long waited. And as my teeth bit into the soft pinkish pulp, I was once again in the country side of Vega Baja sitting under the guava tree of my infancy.
I forgot to ask, what are the tastes, flavors, foods that your palete has been denied for a long time?
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