The coconut episode

Years ago, when I was a child, my father decided to buy a coconut.

The reason might have been that coconuts were the sort of a thing that was ephemeral and distant: mentioned in books, true, and seen on TV (American shows especially), yes, but never seen and touched as the actual, physical, tangible thing.

Another reason might have been that there were three of us children, and once you ask “Would you like a coconut?” we would be clamoring for coconut-milk and coconut-flesh ten hours a day — the rest we would have different excuses for running around screaming, banging things together, and so on.

And — and this might have been the actual reason — we had noticed the fruit stand of the village store had a couple of coconuts on display, and so getting a coconut was easy, and so my father bought one and brought it home.

Now, the problem with a coconut in the hands of an inexperienced coconut-handler is that there is no pull tab, no sticker saying “smash forehead here to open”: just a smooth, somewhat hairy ovoid, with bits of different texture on the spot the thing was attached to a tree from. (And the tree had been in a place so distant from Finland it made my heart beat a bit faster.)

First, a hand-drill was tried to get the coconut open — that didn’t work. That might have been because the drill was an old, janky one.

A hammer didn’t work either — mostly because you didn’t want an opening that would turn into a Death Star-Alderaan episode. (“Who wants more coconut?” — “Got enough of it in my hair already, thank-you!”)

After an hour or so, we were convinced that the only animals who could actually eat coconuts had to be rhinoceroses and elephants — rhinos because they could skewer with their horns, elephants because they could sit on one and, uh… well, okay, two elephants, two coconuts, each licks the other’s butt. (My knowledge of the eating habits of African fauna, then and now: minus zero.)

After much moaning (from us kids) and bebotherment (from father), and various other unsuccessful tools, a rautasaha (metalwork handsaw) was produced, and the coconut was opened.

Oh woe, it was all dried-up and spoiled inside.

According to father (I’ve blocked out the memory) we three kids immediately went into an hours-long orgy of crying, wailing, denial and eventual moping: “Wanna coconut! Waah! Waah!” and so on. The lesson probably was that if you spent several hours waiting for something, waiting with increasing excitement, it really wasn’t good to see it couldn’t be had.

Thus, naturally, the next day father bought a new coconut from the same place. It was much quicker to open — and, to the tones of waah, also discovered to be gone bad inside.

Since this was a bit too much, the day after that father (and probably at least a few of us little uns in tow) went to the general goods store and calmly made a few inquiries about coconuts. The store-keeper was honestly puzzled and, given a little hint, produced a metal-saw of his own, and picked one of the remaining coconuts.

Bad inside.

The next one — also bad.

Actually, all of the small cluster of slightly dusty coconuts on sale in one neglected corner of the fruit stand were bad.

Oy vey.

My mind, now much later, shudders thinking how long that exotic ovoid cluster had laid there before anyone had bought one. Coconuts aren’t an exactly common part of Finnish cuisine.

The end result was, thus, that no coconut was eaten though several were opened — this “let’s ask the shopman!” interlude was exciting enough to satisfy the coconut-related thrill needs of us children — and by my recall I’ve never actually eaten or drunk a coconut in its natural state. But, if I ever get the yearning for one, I’ll be sure to get one that’s imported safe and swift. (Or, er, swallow.)

One Response to “The coconut episode”

  1. kieba Says:

    Oh such a shame you never got the treat of a good coconut. I live in Hawaii and open a fresh coco every day! Drink the water, eat the meat, make cream and smooth on it’s oil. Coconut…..the food of Life.

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