It’s a Date

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper Picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Over the weekend my mother-in-law began pulling things out of a bag as I moved around the kitchen putting dishes away. I tried to follow her explanation about a large jar whose contents almost glowed they were so bright. The Russian caregiver’s mother pickled peppers on her visit (to Texas–could we find any place in America more different from Russia?) and gave a jar to my mother-in-law’s sister. My aunt graciously accepted the pickled peppers, but her Western taste buds not quite on board with this hospitable gift she wondered what in the world she was going to do with them. My mother-in-law didn’t hesitate, “If anyone in the family is going to eat these, it’s going to be Yours Truly.” I looked skeptically at the shreds of cabbage floating around the ruby peppers. Glad to know where I stand in the family; either I’m the family gourmand or the family food disposal. Sometimes the truth hurts. It’s not the  first time I’ve been handed jars that have come through several hands and covered several thousand miles to be met with my can opener and a fork. Food is one area where I’m adventurous, but no one knows that where I work. They think I’m a bird.

When the local paper published an article about the holiday fruit, the date, my students asked, “What is a date, Miss?” I swallowed the pun on my tongue and overlooked the fact that the answer lay in front of them, picture and all, and tried to answer. I couldn’t.

Food, like I said, is my weakness, so I did the only thing I could think of to broaden my students’ experience. After explaining the situation to my boss I submitted a request to bring in dried dates to my Creative Writing class on the condition that I turn it into a writing exercise. On the morning that I had the dates distributed all I asked was that my students try one and describe their experience in a paragraph, nothing more.

The dates were brilliant in the morning sun as they sat sad and neglected on my students’ desks. With the food in front of them, they now wondered if I wasn’t playing some kind of joke on them and were sorry they ever asked. A few of them leaned this way and that, examining the mysterious thing from different angles. One ventured to poke at it. Another finally took the first bite. In the back I heard two of them arguing over the color, “It’s orange.”

“No, Fool, it’s not orange. What would you call that? Hey Miss, wouldn’t you say it’s maple in color?”

In fourteen weeks I’d never seen him engaged in anything, and then he came up with this. Wow. Then they started to write. Remember, I didn’t give them much instruction, nor did I give them an example. I wasn’t looking for anything impressive, yet this is what they turned in:

Pitted dates are a brownish, orangish color. They are shaped like raisins except they are ten times bigger… The fruit looks like an old person’s skin. There is a bitter smell to them, and I would never buy them for my household. 

I don’t want to taste this date because it looks nasty. The texture looks like something out of this planet. Almost looks like an alien or some sort of thing like that. I’m not digging the color or this fruit!! It’s almost like a light orange. 

This is a report on my very first experience with a date. A date is a fruit that comes from palm trees… It’s a little sticky. The one I had was as big as a person’s pinky. It kind of looked like a cockroach. The color was a little dark. When I bit into it it had a weird taste, but then it tasted like a raisin with some extra sweetness to it. 

When you look at it, it doesn’t exactly make your mouth water. It looks weird. It looks like a maple colored jalapeno… When you bite into it it’s soft and chewy and it kind of tastes like a raisin. 

If I ever wondered how to get my students to use figurative language, I now know. I also know I won’t be encouraging any of these guys to become food writers. Maple covered cockroaches anyone? Pinkies? Old skin? No wonder they thought I was playing a joke on them.

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About hey miss

A teacher. A prison guard. I used to think that was like oil and water. Like lightening and metal. Some days it is. Some days it's magic.
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