Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On apples

In Pakistan, in the village my father grew up in, apples were a delicacy, a special treat for special occasions such as a special guest gracing your family with their presence. Apples were not merely tossed into a basket set on the kitchen counter to casually grab and eat as one walked out to get the paper or check the mail. No- apples were gently washed, seeded and quartered and placed circular upon a plate as each person took a slice, enjoying its juicy, sweet, and sometimes tangy flavor. Savored much like a creme brulee or an equally fine dish to be handled with care, respect. So imagine the surprise, an ocean away, sitting in a subway as he looks at the passenger occupying the seat just across from his. She wears a dull green dress and a pill box hat. In one hand she holds a book, her eyes casually perusing, and in the other an apple, eaten nonchalantly in a dirty New York subway. An ordinary day, and an ordinary thing, eating an apple on the way to work, and yet it seemed a most unusual sight at the time, perhaps akin to my seeing a haggard man in the subway breathing a sigh, lifting a filet mignon with both hands and proceeding to stuff it in his mouth. Or perhaps a lady eating creme brulee by absently dipping her fingers into it, at the laundromat. It must have seemed so absurd, just like that. But in truth, allusions are as close as I can get to understanding for American Apples are the only type I know, I envy those with different flavors to color their memories, different shades of greens and red. (Photo source)


momyblogR said...

Wow! I don't think I'll ever look at a apple the same ever again.

There is so much of that very attitude missing. The way the apple was treated in that home, is the way so many things should be cared for and respected.

Baji said...

So true. My inlaws are always on the pursuit of better fruit in America. They always end up being dissapointed. I'm not sure if it's b/c the fruit is actually inferior or it's the context in which the fruit is consumed.

Anisa said...

what a great post! i never realized apples were treated like a delicacy in places...but i think we should treat stuff better in general.

Aisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aisha said...

Mommyblogr, Baji, Anisa, thanks :) I guess we hear about the struggles to adapt to a new culture that all immigrants must face. But often I end up thinking of the big things, like language, and driving on different sides of the road, clothing. But often some of the culture shifts are small and subtle, the kind we never notice.

Enyur said...

Interesting post. I think the era our parents grew up in, people actually took the time to appreciate and respect food.

From what I hear from my mother is that for example, biting into an apple just like that was considered bad manner (especially if you were a woman). Now with Pakistan becoming so Westernized, I see things changing.

I guess in North America, our 'on the go' lifestyles don't really allow the time for us to sit back and 'enjoy' something as simple as an 'apple' like people once used to?

When I'm going from one meeting to another, the only thing I'm thinking is...I better eat fast or I'll be late.

ABCDlaw said...

MMM I want a juicy Pakistani apple.

Is it just me, or is fruit more tastier there?

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between an artist and a common personeflbx? It is the deph of the observation and immersion of your self into it. Aisha your description of a simple fact and editorial comments make thing alive. It is not a story anymore. It appears one is watching a play on a stage.
This talent of writing is a gift. Cheerleader

Aisha said...

Enyur, your pont about being late for meetings so needing to eat fast is exactly my point with this post. Its perfectly OK to eat and run. There is nothing wrong with that. Just a different cultural mentality. It is heartbreaking that those in Pakistan are trying to assimilate an ocean apart. They should retain the value they had in the small things. Its part of culture.

Abcdlaw, I've heard it is :) Never really been unless 8 year old counts.

Abu Ji, thank you :)

Um Ibrahim said...

Beautiful writing...

But I bet you have in Pakistan also excotic fruit, that considered delicacy in the states but there it's an everyday fruit;)

Aisha said...

Salaam Um Ibrahim, thanks :) And yes you are right. Sugar cane was plucked , bit off on the spot and carried as one ate it :) I didnt mean all fruit must be sat infront of and admired. Just a cultural difference :)

Enyur said...

Yes, it is sad to see Pakistan slowly lose it's cultural identity. I mean it's good to bring about some modernization, but some cultural aspects should be preserved. It makes me shudder to think what Pakistan will look like 20 years from today. Will saag and makki ki roti be replaced with McDonalds? :o(

Jane said...

Very interesting perspective. I will never look at an apple the same way.

Baraka said...

Salaam Aisha,

This is one of your most well-written pieces ever, brimming with lyrical language and encapuslating the longing and displacement of the expatriate.

Keep writing pieces like these - what a pleasure to read!


Aisha said...

Enyur, Saag into MCD's??!!?? Blasphemy dahling! :(

Jane, :)

Baraka, thanks so much, I appreciate your feedback. I sent you a message on facebook :)

mystic-soul said...

What a well written post on such a delicate observation. Masha-allah ! Maza aa gaya.

I always miss the same way mangos from back home.

Enyur said...

Well at the rate McD chains are spreading...I wouldn't be surprised! Imagine an McDonalds in the village "McD's the Dhaaba!" lol!

Tee said...

Really beautiful thoughts and I love the cultural aspect, of course.

It kind of blows the mind to think that something as ordinary as an apple (something I had like a hundred of when the Uncle was working at the orchard and kept bringing them home and I was trying to get rid of!) can be so special in another time and place.

Does your father still feel apples are a delicacy or has his time here made them ordinary?

I've seen this myself in some ways. Like it made me crazy that when MIL first came here she used to re-use paper towels. She'd squeeze them out and hang them to dry like a hand towel.

She found my wastefulness appalling and I found her re-using of something cheap and in great supply to be annoying, silly and kind of gross.

Ah, culture :)

Aisha said...

Mystic, yes I think that mangoes are not the same in the US. Brazil was delicious too, but Ive heard that Pakistani ones are in a class all their own.

ENyur, lol, its sad but the idea is funny :-)

Tee, I think he's adjusted to the American concept of apple eating now :)... he eats them on the go too. But one day a few months ago he shared with us the way it was, it blew my mind. I had no idea.

ROFL I can only imagine *your* perspective on apples since you had enough to feed a small country a dozen apple pies each!!!

Paper towels..hmm. The way my parents may have been cultural about it is not using the paper towels but using towels or those reusable wash cloths instead. They never squeezed paper towels and hung the paper towels to dry though.

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