30 July 2011

Fanny Fruit

Here in the earthly paradise of Irapuato in Guanajuato, Mexico it is the season for fruit lovers. The figs in particular are ripe. I love to eat fresh figs which are called “higos” (HEE-gohs) in Spanish. When I was a boy growing up in Chicago the only fig that I was aware of was the brown paste-like substance that could be found inside of a Nabisco Fig Newton. You’re darn-tootin’ there is just no comparison between the taste of a fresh fig and a Fig Newton. A sweet fresh fig will win every time. In fact, the fig is one of the first fruits mentioned in the Bible (after the “forbidden fruit", of course) and the fig tree it is the third tree mentioned in Genesis, the first being the “Tree of Life” and the second being the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”. The downside is that fresh figs are relatively expensive, even in Mexico, and when they are in-season and very ripe they spoil quickly and require delicate handling. Nevertheless, I would walk a mile for a fresh, ripe fig.

Another great fruit that is a lot cheaper than figs is the mango. The word “mango” is spelled the same in English and Spanish but in Spanish it is pronounced “MAHNG-oh” and not “MAYNG-oh” like we more or less pronounce it in English. The mango tree comes from India and there are many varieties. However, in the Midwestern United States, where I come from, some people still refer to bell peppers as “mangos”, especially in rural downstate Illinois and Indiana. That goes way back to the time when the only way that they could ship mangos, bell peppers, and other fruits and vegetables by rail was to first pickle them in vinegar. In the 19th century the phrase “to mango” something meant to pickle it.

In spite of there being many different varieties, or “ cultivars” of mangos, there are basically two shapes and the people here generally refer to mangos by either of two names, “manila” (mahn-EE-lah) and “petacón” (peht-ah-COHN). The mango manila originally came to Mexico from the Philippine Islands via the Spanish Pacific Galleon trade around the year 1565. It is a a small, flat, oval, medium size, green-to-yellow mango with a point called a beak. The mango petacón is a a large, sweet, round, somewhat oblong, and reddish-orange version of the fruit that is about twice the size of a mango manila and is often multi-colored to some extent in yellow, green, and red depending upon how ripe it is. Sometimes it is also called a mango "criollo" (cree-OH-yoh). In the supermarket the mango petacón often goes by yet some other name like mango "paraíso" (pahr-EYE-soh) meaning "paradise" or mango "florida" (flohr-EE-dah) because that particular cultivar was developed in the U.S. state of Florida. Nevertheless the word "petacón" encompasses all the mangos of the same relative shape, size, and color.

For me, the word "petacón" by itself is a very interesting word. To begin with, the root word, "petaca" can mean various things. Generally it means a container for something else. The word "petaca" comes from the native Náhuatl word "petlacalli", which means "caja de petate" in Spanish or "box made from petate". A "petate" is a mat made from dry leaves, or reeds, or grass. In the old days a mat of petate was carried by an "arriero" who was a person who transports goods using pack animals. At night he would unroll his petate and throw it down on the ground to sleep on while covering himself with his serape. If he died while on the trail they would roll him up in his petate and it became his coffin. The word "petaca" took on the meaning of a "covering" and it could refer to a petaca de pipa (tobacco pouch), petaca de purros (cigar case), petaca de cigarros (cigarette case), or a petaca de alcohol (hip flask or small bottle of booze). A petaca could also refer to a "cesto de mimbre" (wicker basket), a "baúl de cuero", (leather bound chest), or a "maleta de cuero" (leather briefcase or small leather bound suitcase).

In Mexico, if you use the plural form of petaca which is "petacas" (peh-TAH-kahs) it means "buttocks" or "rump" or in other words your "fanny". If you use "petaca" with the ending ón which indicates bigness as in "petacón" it has the meaning of big "rump" or "fanny". That is exactly what a pair of mangos petacones look like when placed side by side and viewed from an angle...fanny fruit!


No comments:

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.