Two New Yorkers spend six months 18 months!?! in Bangalore and other places in India.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Counterpoint: Coconuts Are Great!

In the interests of fairness, I fell compelled to respond to the previous post with a reasoned assessment of the properties of coconuts, both positive and negative.
The coconut tree is arguably among the most valuable plants in agricultural use today. The tree provides an energy-rich food in the form of its tasty white meat. Its oil is useful not only as a flavoring and a cooking medium, but also as a hair dressing (in India, at least). When it’s hot outside, the tender coconut (the green, immature coconut) affords anyone with a machete and a straw a liter or more of a refreshing, mildly astringent, and (perhaps most important) sterile beverage. Coconut milk (extracted from the white flesh) is an essential ingredient in Thai curries and various wonderful desserts from many nations. Cream of coconut, the goo extracted from the meat and combined with coconut oil, is the basis of pina coladas and the wonderful Puerto Rican holiday beverage coqui. Dried coconut flesh is used in countless American cakes and candy bars.
Did you know coconut water can be fermented into an alcoholic beverage? It can, and it’s called arrack in many South Indian communities. Did you know that the coconut fiber, known commercially as coir, can be used to make mats and rugs? Well, OK, probably you did, but did you also know that the world’s hardest, thinnest, and firmest mattresses are also stuffed with coir? No? Well, come to India, where these mattresses are the standard. After a while your hipbones get used to it.
Are coconuts difficult to open? Well, yes. Or rather, it takes some practice. The ladies at my office regularly cook with unprocessed coconuts, which they open themselves before scooping out the flesh. Once I received a coconut as a wedding favor and I asked a coworker what I should do with it. “Oh, you know, just grate it over some rice,” she said matter of factly. This was admittedly easier said than done; I managed to open it by smashing it against the counter, but the water was lost, and when I started to go at it with a knife, little bits of shell kept getting mixed in the sweet white flesh. So I have a long way to go. But that’s my fault, not that of the coconut, which has been so good to the tropical peoples of this world. The correct response should not be “I hate coconuts” but rather: “Where can I find someone to open and grate this g-d—m coconut for me?”


Anonymous said...

To opn coconuts you need a machete. Every Indian house has a machete. You are not experiencing true Indianness unless you have a machete. Just kidding, but the machete part is true thats what Indians use to open coconuts not table tops.

Tripp Hall said...

Well, the tender coconut sellers sure make using a machete look easy. I seem to recall that it and cricket bats were two of the things that Air India absolutely forbid you from taking on their flights . . . . Maybe just carryon.

And if I had a machete, I'd also be able to easily open those plastic bags that hold milk and other stuff.

Palanivel Raja said...
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