I am, it has to be said, a suspicious eater.
I never, ever eat mayonnaise-based salads unless I have a deeply trusting relationship with its maker. There is nothing quite as despicable as letting someone (me) sink their teeth into the fluffy, oily, deliciousness of a cheese-puff only for that poor fool (me) to discover it contains unidentified meat or, worse, fish products. Even the most delicious left-overs are prone to stick in my throat. And I don’t eat naartjies (tangerines).
I used to. I loved them beyond reason right up until 1985…
The sun blazed down, undeterred by the winter season or the lateness of the afternoon. Pubescent sweat trickled down from my armpits along the inner seams of the nylon gym shirt. I flapped my Wing Attack bib and groaned as the Goal Attack of the opposing team scored yet another goal.
The whistle blew. We huddled in the thin strips of shade under a palm tree. I ran my tongue along the roof of my mouth exploring the thick, sticky saliva sensation of thirst. I started off towards the girls’ toilets and the promise of the sweetest water that came from the last tap on the left.
“Wait up, there’s naartjies.” Bridgette, the reserve, trotted over swinging a knotted plastic bag.
I grabbed a fruit and slipped my thumb under its supple skin as I walked. Candy-orange scented oil erupted, sparkling in the late afternoon rays. I slipped a segment into my mouth. The juice exploded into my mouth: Honey-sweet and tart. Lush. My tongue and teeth popped the little sacks of liquid. In my mind’s eye a crowd of Californian surfers stood on their boards and cheered in unison. I glanced down to pick up another segment.
And saw it.
The tiny, flabbily white, black-eyed, wriggling, squirming grub. It flayed and convulsed in the unexpected brightness.
Why am I telling about this?
Because I am still annoyed with myself for wasting a perfectly good cabbage. This weekend, I harvested my first cabbage of the season – a glorious shiny spring-green variety called Copenhagen Market. I removed the outer leaves, dreaming of the spicy cabbage recipe I was going to try. Instead of tender, crunchy flesh I discovered a cornucopia of slick, slimy, grubby-looking slugs. Horrible garden pests.
Reason didn’t stand a chance. The cabbage – slugs and all didn’t even get to the compost bin. Nope. It was straight into the dustbin. Followed by enough water to clear the imagined taste of naartjie juice from my mouth.