Wednesday, April 6, 2016

New Years fruit in Batticaloa

It's not a watermelon. It's not a cucumber. It's not a squash exactly.  Not a pumpkin either though it was served to us once in a peculiarly watery "pumpkin" curry. "Gourd," I guess, is an apt name. We had the juice a couple of weeks ago for the first time by order of Thavaraja. "Tell them I want you to try it." Not sweet, not sour. Gourdish. It was wet but foamy after some time in the blender, like many other Sri Lankan treats, for instance wood apple, not what we expected. An acquired taste relished in the second glass proffered after a long, very hot bike ride. Perfect!

Thavaraja told us the farmer insists on spraying each one. He can't stand for there to be a blemish. "We can use it here in the kitchen," Thava complains. "But you can't tell him anything. He's of his own mind."

The seeds were planted right at Thai Pongol in January. The vines are burning out now, Janet noticed, after producing their thick ovals of fruit. Sinhala-Tamil New Years is a few days away, marking a new agricultural season. Janet noticed as well, in several places during her bike rides, this gourd hung before shops in beautifully woven baskets. She realized this is a regional New Years delicacy. Maybe people decorate their doorways with it. 

We could ask, but let's conjecture. Fecundity, fertility, the passing of seasons? The shape, rounded, lingam-like must be perfect. That makes sense. The farmer is right. And what about the taste, something I'd have to say is peculiarly, hauntingly Tamil. A sadness about it even as it is full and bursting with life. Nourishing, earthy, neither too sweet or gamey. Just the smallest trace of bitterness, reminds you of life. 

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