Thursday, April 14, 2005

How to peel a coconut

Reading Basho's distilled and poetic travel entries set me to searching my computer for scraps of my own travel notes from trips over the years, hidden in badly named files. The best scrap I found, and the opposite of a Basho entry is this, from a trip to the jungle in Costa Rica, 15 years ago.

Eve raised her hand, as if she were in school, as we were about to leave, and asked Damma, our river guide in the jungle,
“Um, can I have a coconut, please?”
Damma looked about his yard and pretended to be amazed that it was littered with coconuts.
“Coconuts? Coconuts! Oh yes, we are in luck.”
He looked up at the coconut trees.
“Them coconuts must have just fell down!”
He picked one up and deftly peeled off the outer husk using his machete, first girdling the thick and fibrous husk and then prying it loose in two halves with the limber blade. Then he took the coconut in his hand and with oblique strokes with his very sharp machete chipped off pieces of the hard shell exposing the meat beneath. He turned the coconut in his hand as he worked, and in about ten unerring strokes had flaked off the entire shell and was holding a sort of melon of totally unscathed and unscratched coconut meat with the milk still inside. Then he sliced off the top making a coconut meat cup for Eve to drink the milk out of, and offered it ceremoneously to my daughter.
Eve took it and thanked Damma politely. She tasted it and made a face, “Yuck!” and handed the coconut cup to me. Damma was amused.

We took the coconut back to our room to eat. Coconuts are so abundant they are fed to the pigs and chickens. The woman who owned the seaside hotel enforced high standards of behavior for her guests, and forbade the eating of coconuts in her rooms because they were animal food, so we had to eat it on the sly.

The peeling of the coconut, nearly done
Peeling the coconut

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