It was the second time in a couple of days – and the second time in five entries on this blog as it happens – that I was greeted by a man brandishing a machete. There was nothing wrong with this...
The machete is one of the twin tools of the Caribbean, along with the umbrella. Every farmer needs one, to cut back the rampant growth. It’s just that it’s still a little unexpected when you’re in the street.
In this case it was needed to despatch a coconut. The man was standing next to an ice-cream trolley full of them.
‘Chop me a nut, sir!’ I said. ‘Not too young.’
And he delved into the trolley and pulled out a good looking yellow coconut.
It was at this point he whipped out his machete. He bounced the coconut in one hand, turning it until he got just the right angle. And then THWACK! He sliced off the top of the shell. It took him four or five strokes to slice it down to the right point and then he chopped slightly more gently, shaving chips off and preventing the coconut water splashing out when he broke through. He left a hole into the inside of the nut about an inch across, rimmed the white flesh of the coconut. At this point he handed it over.
It’s a messy procedure, drinking from a coconut. Not as messy as eating a mango (for which you are probably best to get into a bath, frankly, or the sea), but it is complicated. You have to squash the shell against your nose in order to get your mouth into position - and anyway the liquid always seems to find its way down your shirt. No worry, though. Coconut water is refreshing and satisfying in the heat and a nut can contain about half a pint so there is plenty there.
But there’s more to a coconut. I handed it back – it’s part of the service - and the salesman took out his machete again...
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