Fitness, nutrition and a Peruvian fruit stall

I’m in Peru right now on a volunteer hand surgery assignment. I arrived here about a week ago and when I went to the grocery store the day after I landed to stock up on some supplies, I noticed things in the store that were familiar and things that weren’t so familiar.

In an effort to ensure I wasn’t going to get scurvy, I felt like I had to buy some fruit. There were oranges and pineapples and mangos and papayas, but I also wanted something portable that I wouldn’t have to peel or cut or scoop. So I opted for apples. I speak very little Spanish, so asking the clerks in the store about each fruit, its taste, how to eat or prepare it wasn’t really an option.

Over the last weekend, I took a cooking class, which started with a tour of the local Peruvian market. My teacher, a wonderful chef, took me to a fruit stall where he started picking up various local fruits and explained each one to me, taking out a paring knife to show me how to peel and eat each one. The word, “amazing” doesn’t even start to describe the experience. So many options and each one more tasteful than the last.

The end result is that I have 4 out of 6 apples left and no desire to eat them. I can get upwards up 15 varieties of apples in Canada. It turns out apples aren’t even grown in Peru. They’re imported. That’s right, my default ‘safe’ food is actually a luxury item in Peru. Now, I’m just trying to get my fill of camu camu, lucuma, chirimoya, granadilla, tumbo and cactus fruit while I’m here.

So why write about this?

Fitness and nutrition for most people, is la bit ike a Peruvian fruit stall. There’s the stuff you know–the apples, and the stuff you don’t (things like camu camu, and lucuma!) Some people attack the new stuff with a fervour, trial-and-error be damned. In this case, I would have ended up eating rinds and cactus spines. Others gravitate towards what is familiar, regardless of the price or the relevance of it, staying away from stuff that might not only challenge their status quo, but might even make it better!

The reality is that there’s a lot of strange fruit out there. Most of it is edible, but you have to know how to eat or prepare it. With the right guide, strange fruit can be an awesome, enriching experience. Without the right guide, you can end up with spines in your teeth, or at the very least, a bitter taste in your mouth. Counting on the people that sell the fruit isn’t really a reliable solution either. They are more than happy to sell you the fruit, regardless of whether you speak the language or not. Some might help you out, but their goal is to get you to part with your money.

In an age of unrestricted access to multiple information sources from both sellers and non-sellers, I predict that the future will not be about finding information, but rather, finding reliable interpreters and guides that can lead your way through the foreign territory where visiting consumers don’t speak the language.

Strange fruit can be ridiculously enriching–if you’re with someone who knows how to eat it. Who’s guiding you?

Now excuse me while I break open this granadilla.

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