THE jackfruit turned out to be a changeling. For days, the bulbous green object lay in a box, where the husband had heaved it since Sunday after we bought fruits from a roadside stall in Batangas.
The avocados were naturally ripened, their seed giving a muted knocking when the fruits were shaken. We could already taste those creamy, healthy meals.
The jackfruit, though, made the husband hesitate. Both of us had always eaten the yellow, fragrant fruits already peeled and pithed. The farmer advised sticking a piece of bamboo into one end of the fruit; she said the impalement hastens the ripening.
Long after the avocados were mashed and consumed, the jackfruit went undisturbed under the table. Just when we thought it was a dud, the house was suddenly enveloped in a fragrance that grew stronger each day.
I had ignored the farmer’s advice, thinking that I was not hungry enough to ram a stick into that thick green rind. Yet, the ingratiatingly sweet scent emanating from the now yellow jackfruit had a peremptory presence that led me to clear the table after one breakfast.
Over newspaper sheets I rolled the heavy fruit. On a saucer, I poured edible oil, rubbing this on my hands and knife. Our longtime yaya advised that the oil will keep off most of the sticky sap. Before ringing off, Yaya said: “Pagbantay (be careful).”
As a child, I squatted on the ground as Yaya and companions shucked the “nangka (jackfruit)” in the dirty kitchen. The smell of wet newspapers mingled with that of kerosene; over these layers hung that penetrating perfume, sticky as the white filaments clutching the yellow flesh I was swallowing as fast as I could chew.
In the greed fed by the peeled nangka, it never occurred that what I desired is something the living tree finds extraneous. The jackfruit animating such merienda staples as “turon” and “benignit” is merely the aril, the sweet yellow flesh coating the seeds, the small kidney-shaped achenes.
Boiled jackfruit seeds are bland; some throw these away. Until I took apart a jackfruit, I never realized how, with everything in its nature—rind, core, and sap—the jackfruit resists all attempts to expose the achenes. In my oiled, slippery hands, I turned away the knife’s edge and sawed outwards after earlier attempts nearly impaled the knife on my stomach.
By nightfall, with a large portion of the jackfruit still uncarved and unshucked, the taste and smell of the aril filled me with revulsion. The achenes—the jackfruit “seed” that is actually the “fruit containing the seed”—I stored.
Aches and cuts yielded such a harvest, as insight follows the stripping down of language, as truth confronts after delusion.
August 10, 2019
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