Tamarind, sour fruit

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Today’s fruit is featured at the top of my list of fruits that got us in trouble throughout my childhood. Our getting in trouble of course had everything to do with us doing something forbidden.  We broke quite a few school rules in order to be able to savor it.

It all started in pre-k. A tamarind tree had spread its branches close to our classroom window. That was the perfect spot for us to attempt to grab its fruits. Needless to say, we had to break quite a few rules to do so.  We often snuck in the classroom during recess. Perched to this window, we would grab the few branches that our short five-year old arms could reach in hopes of catching as many pods as possible without the adults noticing. Of course, some kids were more agile than others.  Their job was to handpick the fruits for us to evenly split. That rarely happened as you may have anticipated. The luckiest one out of the bunch typically hurriedly put a lot of seeds in his mouth before sharing his loot with the group. If you’re familiar with our local tamarind, you know that was not such a smart move. Our tamarinds are extremely sour. Eating too many at a time often led us to spit it all out before we could truly enjoy it. But that did not stop us.

Our rule breaking behavior followed us girls when we transferred to another school.

We actually kept our clandestine behavior through high school. There, we had to resort to even more drastic measures, except this time, we were not robbing our tamarind from a tree. We bought them from a street merchant whose tamarind stand was located right at the school’s main entrance. We thus had to find our way to the front gate when we craved that fruit.  That was of course prohibited.

For safety reasons, we were not allowed to leave the premises once our parents had dropped us off.

Yet, we ignored the possible repercussions. We found ways to sneak out quite often. After all, these bans only made this fruit more tempting and delicious.

We loved tamarind for its rich flesh, its juiciness, its sourness.

We enjoyed it even more for the sweet, yet very sour, victory of having been able to break rules without getting caught. Our biggest joy was the challenge of not getting “suprimé” while eating it. We had fun stuffing as many seeds in our mouths as possible as if to prove to our classmates that we could handle the acidity. No need to tell you that we often had to spit it all out as quickly as we had put themin our mouths. Our taste buds couldn’t always handle the sourness. This didn’t take away the pleasure that came with eating them, however.

I was sharing these stories with my dad a couple of days ago. He told me that, growing up, they managed to reduce tamarind’s acidity by rubbing the pulp in ashes coming from hot charcoal. I had never heard of that trick before. And it surprised me. I cannot imagine our local tamarinds without their sour taste.

But most importantly, his tips got me rethinking my childhood.  I wondered what it would have been like had we kept this tradition of eating them dipped in ashes. We wouldn’t be able to eat them on the playground. And that would have been a shame. We would have lost the joy that comes with having to break rules to obtain this fruit.

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