I walked up to the counter at Sue’s Produce Sunday afternoon and managed to catch the tail end of a conversation that caught my attention. A young woman with a vaguely British accent was explaining the virtues of the fruit she was buying to the woman behind her in line. She explained that she didn’t like it at first, but that her husband was from Ecuador, and that she had come to love it. I leaned in a little to hear more of the conversation and to try to catch a glimpse of what fruit she was talking about. The man bagging her groceries gave it away a second later, when he talked about the sizes they can reach. And I knew.
I ate a lot of papaya the summer I spent in Indonesia. I stayed for two weeks in a cheap hotel in Bali that offered breakfast as part of the deal. In addition to bunches of slightly spicy mini bananas, there was always a flower-garnished platter of papaya on the buffet table. I ate it every day, each morning hoping I would like it better than I did the day before, and each morning feeling disappointed that I couldn’t help but find that it tasted slightly of vomit.
Several months ago, I woke up one morning with the realization that my ever-regular lower intestinal system had suddenly stopped being so reliable. Being one who is rarely constipated, when it happens, it freaks me out just a little. I called my mom, hoping that she’d have the mother-knowledge I’d need to get me through this situation. Her advice was to slow down on my normal abundant veggie intake and drink papaya juice. Having eaten all that papaya in Bali to limited enjoyment, I was wary of trying it out again, but I figured it was worth a try.
That first sip of papaya juice sent me slamming down a tunnel of nostalgia that was so thick that I was momentarily dizzy. It wasn’t an experience of memories so much as a momentary trip to another time and place. It seems I spent a lot of time constipated as a young child and so had consumed a whole lot of papaya juice. In those days, my mom would give me a bottle full of watered down papaya juice and wait until it did the job. When I called my mom to tell her how instantly the papaya juice had triggered a scent/taste memory, she burst out laughing. Thankfully, the magic of papaya works as well on 26 year olds as it does on 2 year olds. It’s nice to know that some things don’t change.
Since I’m telling poop stories, I’ve now got one for you about prunes. Specifically about my parents’ dog Bonnie and a 2 pound bag of prunes. Bonnie is a mutt, with just a little Dingo (wild Australian dog) in her. Dingos never know when or where their next meal is coming from, so they eat any time they encounter food, or anything that even resembles food. This is a trait that was passed down to Bonnie from her many times great-grand-dingo. She eats anything and is always scavenging for food. Nothing is safe. I’ve watched her scrape chewing gum off the sidewalk with her front teeth, so convinced was she that it was going to be her last meal.
One time, about six years ago, my mother bought a 2 pound bag of prunes (I think that she was going to make hamentaschen, but one never knows in my parents’ house). The bag was left on the counter, and while it was scooted back until it rested up again the wall, the clever and resourceful Bonnie found a way to get her paws on it. My parents came home to a mostly empty bag, a sticky kitchen floor, and a dog that was hiding in the basement, as she knew she had been bad. Prunes have an intensely laxative effect after just a few, but 2 pounds, well, that’s just asking for trouble. Or a colon explosion.
My parents immediately called the vet. The first question they asked was whether the prunes were pitted or not (they were). With that information in hand, the nice woman on the phone just started laughing hysterically, but with a trace of pity in her voice. She told my parents that Bonnie would be fine, but that they might want to lock her someplace they didn’t care about too much, as she was going to be running fast and loose for the next couple of days. It took three days for those prunes to run their course, and I think that in addition to celery, they are the only thing that Bonnie will refuse to eat. I guess some memories just never leave you, even if you are a dog.