West Indians certainly do sales with aplomb. Market stalls are as carefully presented as art galleries. You might see a range of colour co-ordinated cigarette packets, a pyramid of avocados or a clutch of umbrellas all carefully leaning against one another so as not to fall down.
And if the set is worthy of a stage, then there is certainly drama and the ‘lyric’, with a constant backchat and sales patter, to bamboozle you into buying. Coconut salesmen call and shout then chop coconuts for you with a flourish of their machete and when you buy a snow cone in Jamaica you can expect the third degree – all to get a cup of crushed ice flavoured with some concentrate to give it taste.
But in the Dominican Republic they have what must be the most stylish way of... well, peeling an orange. It is a small metal machine. You fix the orange into a clamp and then start to wind – all with a theatrical flourish of course – and a sharp scoop then begins to cut into the peel, shedding the orange (or often green) skin right down to the bottom layer of pith, leaving a neat serrated pattern of rings. Chop the orange in half and you can scrape the flesh of the orange out with your front teeth. Perfect.
Returning to my favourite orange seller in Santo Domingo not long ago, I found that he had upgraded. Not the same at all, I thought. The old machine, the one he wound with a flourish, had been forsaken and instead there was a battery driven one, with a motor in the spiral shape of a huge inner ear. But hey, he executed it all with the same dexterity and drama. And the orange was as juicy and sweet as ever before.
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