“Apple” is a nice word, isn’t it? It mek you feel happy when you see it. I don’t know if it’s a nice food item though. Until today I never even tried one. Until today.
Yes dear reader, I have achieved Part I of Operation Fruitalicious (II and III to follow, god willing). Here’s how I did it (do try this at home, boys and girls):
Step one is to obtain your chosen fruit item – in my case, an apple, a pear and an orange. I managed this by attending my local market, and requesting said items from the marketeer. It cost less than a pound. I’d say that was pretty good value, as life-changing experiences go.
As you can see, this is to be an illustrated post. I’m very happy to concede that a fruit’n'veg stall in a market is an aesthetically pleasing thing, as the image below will hopefully confirm. If you are like me though, none of the items for sale (barring potatoes) actually count as edible, never mind desirable. As such, however, approaching a fruit and veg stall is perfectly non-traumatic. Since I rarely have cause to do so, in fact, it’s actually a bit of a novelty. All the more so when one is actually to make a purchase. So far, so exciting.
I chose a Royal Gala apple, a Conference pear, and a generic Orange. Having procured the necessary equipment, the next step is to take your purchases home, to the comfort and safety of your own surroundings, and get a feel for them.
The next step is to place your item(s) on a plate, just as if they were food. This too, I found easy and fun, because of course they’re not food, they’re just artistic objects:
Now then, this is the point at which the fun begins. I decided to take things one step at a time and start with the apple. If it’s good enough for Eve, it’s good enough for me. Now, my instinct is fairly strongly against any actual interaction with a fruit. But I’m perfectly capable of cutting things up, I tell myself. (Obviously, I have no intention to actually bite into the thing). So the next step is to select my favourite knife, and cut a side off this apple. I believe it’s ok to not eat the core, and also, I didn’t want to scare myself by assuming I was going to try and eat the whole thing. Like I said, this is just a getting-to-know-you exercise. So I didn’t cut it down the middle, I just cut off a nice little section from one side. Even that looked daunting to me though, so I cut a smaller piece off it. Ok, so far, so good.
As a first move, I picked up that small piece nearest the front, and I licked it. I don’t mean that I just touched it with my tonge, I actually licked it, like you might lick a delicious ice-lolly. It was strange. On the one hand it was quite pleasant (it tastes just like an apple flavoured Opal Fruit), but on the other hand, the sides of my tongue didn’t like it at all. Which is not to say that it tastes unpleasant (it doesn’t), but that when the sides of my tongue taste it, I start to get the inkling of a gag response – not uncontrollable by any means, but definitely there.
Still, I was emboldened by this little foray, and I decided to take the next step: To place some apple in my actual mouth. To prepare for this, I knew I’d need to cut it up a lot smaller, like this:
Can you see that nice little triangle near the front? I picked him up and put him in my mouth. Now, what happened next was actually quite amazing to me. Most of the things I can’t eat, I’ve never actually tried. I’ve just always known instinctively that I didn’t want to eat them. Somewhere in the back of my mind was a vague feeling that it would make me gag, but since 90% of my inedibles have never been put to the test, I suppose on some level I didn’t really believe it would happen. Which is silly, really. When I’ve had to force things down in a social setting, the gag reflex is the major problem. And the last time I tried a solitary tasting like this (with peas, 20 years ago), I didn’t get beyond the reflex. Very frustrating as I recall. So I shouldn’t have been, but I was, quite amazed at how quickly I had to spit it out, this tiny tiny piece of apple, and how I continued wretching and spluttering even after it was gone.
“Could have been a fluke”, I said to myself, and tried again. Same result. I have to say though, it’s very good doing this alone in the privacy of one’s own home. It is such a great relief to be able to freely and swiftly evacuate the offending food item, and to know that your reflex action won’t offend anyone else.
Still, I wasn’t prepared to give up that easy, so I kept repeating the attempt. What I found is that if I keep it in the very front of my mouth, it’s just about tolerable. It’s when you let it be in your mouth like any other food object would, that the sides of the mouth rebel into gagging territory. The thing that made me actually sick was when I thought I would just pretend it was food and try and chew it. That was a mistake. The result was immediate and uncontrollable. Fortunately I’d had the foresight to prepare the sink for in case of an emergency, and to stand beside it just in case.
“Ah well”, I thought, “At least I tried”.
Twenty minutes later though, I felt inspired to give it another go. I wondered what would happen if you dissociated the biting from the mouth-tolerance. And I found, not very much. I still felt sick, and I still had to fight the gag reflex, but I managed, using just the very front of my mouth, to bite several pieces in half (and take them out again, obviously).
It’s quite a feeling, biting apple, if you’ve never done it before, let me tell you. After a while, I decided I’d put myself through quite enough for one evening. Before giving up the ghost though, I took one last piece, and keeping it in the front of my mouth, I sort of chewed it, just at the very front. After a while it became a swallowable texture. Well, it’d be wrong not to, wouldn’t it? I swallowed it. No problem. A good note to end on, I figured.
It’s surprising how traumatic it is, though, just to manage this tiny victory. I didn’t feel afraid at any point (only the social context causes that), but I really felt like I needed comfort afterwards. I had to go and order a pizza straight away.
On the plus side, after tonight, I can now see how a person would love apples. If it weren’t for the gagging thing, I could definitely get to finding them delicious. If you could eat apples, I don’t see why you’d ever need to bother with a Mars Bar. I wouldn’t. You know all those people who say we’re missing out? They’re so right, and now I’ve had a taste of what I’m missing.
But I also think I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that I can apply on my next attempt. One: don’t rush it; Two: front of mouth only, to start with.
I don’t know what any of this tells us, but there it is: a full and frank account.
ps If anyone else tries this, I’d love to hear any similarities or differences in experience.