The Chirimoya

As I sit at our Kitchen table, in our apartment with no kitchen, I stare longingly into a green fleshy fruit in front of me. It is a Chirimoya, native to somewhere near here. Perhaps it exits in a similar way to the Florida orange, which I enjoy in Connecticut. “Of here,” but not exactly. For I am in a city, of sorts, and Chirimoyas, or any fruit save a palm coconut, do not grow in cities.

I bought this one in a grocery store on the corner of Sanches Cerro and Arequipa. This Cossta Market carries the whole array of edibles, the same you might find in a U.S. or U.K. food shop, but there is a difference, perhaps big, perhaps unnoticeable, depending on who is looking. You see, much of the products in this, and EVERY grocery store in Peru, are a product of Peru. A true-to-reality version of the glimmering western-world versions, these growers pack what seems to be almost entirely Peruvian products, where foreign items such as peanut butter and snickers bars are actually more expensive than their local counterparts, An incentive to continue a more sustainable, close to home market. What a thought.

And yet this local Chirimoya bothers me so. For if I were to lay but one finger upon its olive green, now slightly browning flesh, and touched it to my lips I could be subjecting myself to another seven day bout of Giardiais, a frighteningly common protazoal infection of the lower intestines, which I am currently in the fifth day of. I have never eaten a Chirimoya before, however, and so I did not contract my bowel destroying syndrome from one, causing my now intensifying perplexity with the fruit in front of me, but it, like nearly every food or beverage in the country is indeed a candidate for such contamination.

Of course there are a variety of ways to handle such disturbing statistics. Cooking food thoroughly, washing with antibacterial food rinse (results may be inconclusive…), using purified water in your daily life (if you can find it, many of the labels are inconveniently vague about these facts), washing your hands, etc. Or you can always stick to the diet of peanut butter and wheat crackers, as I have for the last week. Finally you can do as the vast majority of Peruvians do and simply live with it, let it run its course, hope you don´t get dehydrated or malnourished and keep on truckin´. In fact I have learned recently, during my wiki searches to diagnose my symptoms, that Latin America is heavily stricken with food and water borne illness. So much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that 40% of the population is suffering from similar health issues at any given moment.

What luxury we have in the western world! What utter decadence we indulge in three or more times a day, in ever-increasing platefuls. How I would love a salad, to bit into an apple, to pop a few grapes into my salivating mouth. How I would love to taste what the street vendor is cooking. How I would love to rinse my toothbrush in the bathroom sink or be able to take a shower without being scared of letting a few drips enter my mouth or nose. How I would love to not worry about the VERY necessary and wonderful acts of eating, drinking, cooking, dinning, bathing, etc.

How I hate the smell of hand sanitizer, my snobby hands becoming dry from its overuse.

How should I live Chirimoya-in-front-of-me?

The majority of the worlds populous has no hand sanitizer or vegetable rinse. How do the live?

How might I eat you, Fruit?

How do the Peruvians eat you? How can they stand the tear wrenching stomach pains you might cause? Are their stomachs merely hardened to your protazoal friend´s adverse effects? Perhaps, Perhaps…

Am I being selfish to want sterile food?; To not have to worry? What effects does the cleaning of food in the U.S. have on the cleanliness of the foods here? Maybe there is only a little clean food available, why does the U.S. get it?

I have read that bacteria and the like flourish here in this tropical climate, however the use of raw fertilizer coupled with unsafe food service and garbage practices nationwide and a general lack in health education are the real culprits of food-borne sickness. Things us westerners think we have in check… (gosh not this again! Do we help them clean it all up?! Maybe it has nothing to do with that…)

I want to eat a Chirimoya with peace of mind…

“Wanting,” the principle so necessary for a successful, westernized mind…

Perhaps here lies the reason for our cultural differences, coupled with the equally important concept of “entitlement,” we begin to wipe clean the dusted cover on our westernized thought.

I want and I am entitled to.

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