'I can see a caterpillar.' - statement of fact.
'No you can't.'
'Yes I can.'
'No you can't.'
'Yes I can.'
We are all sitting around the table for Sunday lunch (outside). This reminds me of conversations I used to have around the table as a child - history is repeating itself - but that was another era.
'Well, where is it then?' My husband demands, stalking around the table.
'What there?' Disbelief. 'That's just a leaf!'
'No it isn't, it's a caterpillar.'
Now my middle daughter is now prodding her cauliflower gingerly with her fork.
'Oh yes, it is a caterpillar.' My husband grabs the offending cauliflower floret and hurls it across the grass. 'Never mind.' He says, 'Now get on with the rest of your lunch.'
No one has much of an appetite anymore.
'Do we have to eat the rest of our cauliflower?' All 3 daughters ask - spotting a window of opportunity - a viable excuse to skip the veg.
'Yes' I say firmly.
Then, a few moments later, I feel guilty. I grab one of the 3 pieces of remaining cauliflower from our 6 year old's plate. I can't help noticing that this one has a caterpillar's cocoon hidden on one side. I point surreptitiously to it, to show my husband while no one else is looking. He raises an eyebrow.
'Okay, no one has to finish their cauliflower.' I say.
'How many caterpillars do you reckon we've already eaten?' My husband asks, staring down at his empty plate.
Now - it's not even as though this was an isolated incident. Almost EVERY time I cook broccoli, there is accompanying wildlife that goes with it. If I'm lucky the little green camouflaged blighters will float to the top of the boiling water as I cook - then I can spoon them out with the skill of a surgeon. It's more difficult when you are talking about aphids or eggs. The irony is - our kids like broccoli!! I can't bring myself to strike such an iron and vitamin rich veg from their diet. Occasionally, I feel cheered by the fact that perhaps this time, we've escaped the caterpillars - by some miracle, I'm cooking and the broccoli appears to be caterpillar free- but then I find one - and I know that there are bound to be more.
I think back to the days when I was a self-indulgent and spoiled student - I was fussy...cutting the rind from my bacon and the fat from my lamb. Times changed. As a newly-wed I found myself routinely seiving weevils from flour, picking stones from dry rice before cooking and tapping ants from the sugar bowl. (By the way - it's so dry that now ants are back in the kitchen with a vengance). I've even been known to negotiate around the mould in a refridgerated jar of pesto sauce. I'm not proud.
Lettuce is just the same. I took some leaves from a Tupperware in the fridge that I'd painstakingly washed in boiled and filtered water a couple of days before. From a leaf on my plate, popped the rearing head of a caterpillar - looking at me, looking at you. I had no idea they could survive in the cold and without air for so long. 'Incredible resilience' I thought, before flicking it out of the window.
I know that I should be grateful that pesticides and sprays have not made Nairobi's veg into plasticated, chemical filled GM shadows of their former selves - like the ones you see in supermarkets back home where rows and rows of carrots and leeks are of the same size, weight and colour- but somehow I really don't feel all that that grateful when literally face-to-face with the wildlife that is inhabiting my food.
The most famous 'dudu' related incident in our family is when our middle daughter (it always seems to be her), bit into some mango that 'tasted funny'. She looked up at the rest of the family and we all witnessed the image of a maggot writhing round between a large and beautiful front tooth and the top of her gum. My eldest daughter since then has felt completely vindicated in her decision never to eat fruit.
What is the opposite of vegetarian?
I think that carbs and meat only is the only safe diet from now on.
p.s. I think I told you about the time when the gecko fell into my coffee.....without me noticing...(shiver)