There’s a memory associated with everything you like and dislike as an adult. Perhaps it was a fragrant whiff you caught off a passer-by that later became your favourite perfume, or a classmate’s annoying habit that developed into a strong pet peeve. I’m about to share a memory that’s rather close to me, not because it’s a pleasant one (quite the opposite actually), but because it shattered the heart of a 7-year-old me when I didn’t even know what heartbreaks meant, or felt like.
I hate papaya. I believe the fruit lacks identity, and absolutely despise the fact that when peeled, chopped into cubes and served in a colourful bowl, it looks like a sweet, succulent serving of mangoes. This fruit-ification of devious treachery is basically a wanna-be mango, but the pitiful thing can never even come remotely close to tasting like the juicy summer fruit.
Kids trust their mothers with everything, and I too thought my mom was the one person in the whole world who would never hurt me, till one fine evening, back in 1997, she brought me a bowl of glorious bright yellow cubes complete with a fork, telling me to help myself to some ‘aam’ (mango).
Clever mom, she probably knew there was no other way of making me have it. But as a toddler, to be lied to by your own mother, and to be cheated into eating something you wouldn’t ever consciously touch is a serious double-blow, and 19 years later, I am still reeling from the shock. The reflux-inducing taste altered my fruit preferences for eternity.
You could tell me it’s the last edible thing left on earth, you could give me a billion health benefits papayas offer, and I still wouldn’t have it. Remember those cat and cucumber videos that went viral recently? Put a papaya near me and I might just give you a similar reaction. The aftermath? I started doubting my mother in food-related matters, but on the brighter side, I discovered my least favourite thing to eat, and might I add, it’s the only thing I’m fussy about. This is more than just 350 words of papaya-bashing, it’s the description of a life-changing, gastronomical nightmare.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2016.