Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pamama Smells Like.....

Someone once told me about a well-known children's book in Germany called "The Trip To Panama," by Janosch.  It's one of those must read books that all German kids seem to know about that's as common to them as Bugs Bunny is to our kids. 

The story is about a bear and a tiger, two friends who live happily in the countryside.  The bear spends his days fishing while the tiger likes to spend time in the woods. One day the bear finds a box of bananas in the woods and on it is the word "Panama."  The box and the bananas smell so sweet and wonderful that the bear is convinced that the whole country of Panama must smell this way. Bear decides that he and his friend Tiger must go to Panama, the land of his dreams that surely must be the best place in the world since it smells like bananas.  They head out with no direction merely walking in circles yet making new discoveries along the way.  And with each new discovery they think they must be in Panama but end up right back in their own yard, suddenly realizing that there's no place like home. 

And those of us that live in Panama know for sure that Panama smells like many things but not so much like bananas. In fact we joke with other expats all the time that we must reek of onions because we eat so many of them.  We mix raw onions, green peppers, and tomatoes, with mostly everything that we eat.  With eggs for breakfast, with tuna or chicken for lunch, and with chicken or fish for dinner pretty much everyday so for those that meet us, Panama smells like onions. And garlic is used in large amounts here too as flavoring and is quite cheap, so between the raw onions and garlic, tourists probably leave Panama thinking that it smells like onions and garlic.

But that doesn't mean we don't have bananas here because we do have tons.  I believe I've heard there are five types of bananas here including red bananas whose reddish-purplish look messes with my mind, since bananas aren't supposed to look that way.  Although they do taste like a regular banana they seem to have less flavor than the yellow variety, but maybe that's just in my head?   The best bananas are probably the tiny, little, very dense bananas about half the size of a normal banana.  They're very sweet and never found in grocery stores but only at roadside stands and certainly live up to the saying "great things come in small packages." 

And despite the fact that Rosetta Stone Latin America taught us "banana" as the Spanish word for banana here in Panama they disagree.  Go into any supermarket here and you'll probably not find the word banana displayed above any produce.  Instead you'll need to look for the word "guineo" pronounced "gee nay oh" if you want to find bananas to buy.  Although I DO think Panameño's know the word banana our Spanish teacher forbids us to use it since according to her "it's an English word and when speaking Spanish one should not mix in English words." 

Our banana trees however,  aren't producing bananas anymore than our chickens are producing eggs.  But our mango trees are dropping mangos everywhere and as they ripen and ferment, our Panama smells like rotten mangoes.  And since it's mango season our neurotic, crazy, mango-maniac Doberman is happily munching away all day, chasing away every bird that she thinks is after her mangoes. 

So if eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away perhaps eating an onion a day keeps everyone away, except for the others that also eat them and become used to the smell.  Well known TV personality, author and cook Rachel Ray always said she could never marry a man that didn't like garlic since she smells like a salami all the time.

They say we are what we eat and I'd rather smell like onions and garlic then a greasy burger any day.  But hopefully the sweet smell of bananas, mangoes, pineapples and other fruit will neutralize our smells making us smell sweet to the world.....along the gringo trail.




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