In a visit to the greengrocers my two children and I succumbed to the allure of a bag of aubergine coloured grapes, each grape the size of a greengage. At home in need of an after school snack, we greedily took a mouthful of grapes only to discover the disappointment of sour seeds intermixed with juicy flesh. So shocked was my little boy that he spat it straight out onto his plate and refused to try another, not even with the pips removed. His sister and father reacted similarly, (albeit without the spitting) and my mind cast back to the days when seeds in grapes was the norm. I remember experiencing grapes for the first time and the promise of the juicy flesh being punctured by the taste of the bitter seeds. Back then there was no such thing as seedless grapes so you either cut them open or devised clever ways of chewing and swallowing without releasing the bitter taste. Thinking back to when it all changed I remember a time when shops offered a choice between cheaper grapes with seeds and more ‘exotic’ (and expensive), seedless ones. Now though, few children will have encountered grapes with seeds, or whole fruits for that matter.

 

I still remember my father, a joiner, returning from work one day in the 1970’s and plonking a mysterious green warty ellipse on the kitchen table– an avocado I later discovered. A work colleague had given it to him to try and so not sure whether we could eat the skin or not we cut it in half, exposing the pale creamy inside. I can’t remember what I expected from this exotic mouthful, but unfortunately for a young unaccustomed palette, it was not all together pleasant. I remember feeling disappointed that the taste did not match my expectations! It reminded me of my mothers’ stories about life after wartime rationing and the taste of a much-anticipated first banana! Having encountered that  strange knobbly avocado, and waited with anticipation as it was halved to reveal the nut brown stone, I gained an inkling of what it might have felt like for a salivating child to taste their first banana after a 6 year wait in my mum’s case!

 

Funny how some foods bring back memories. In fact many autistic people’s memories are actually stored as smells, while for others, colours or even people are associated with certain tastes (Bodashina, O. 2003). Equally bizarre is how our mind makes links between supposedly disparate activities. If I think of Black Jacks and Fruit Salads I’m stood standing in my navy uniform, on the way home from middle school, shrieking with the other girls as we try to avoid a severed chicken leg, being thrust in our face. I should explain, one of the boys (I now understand with learning difficulties) regularly stopped at the butchers next to the sweetshop to pick up sheep eyes and chicken legs supplied by a butcher with a sense of humour.  I never did like chicken, unlike avocado and grapes which I love!

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