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An Orange Dialogue

Pilar looks at a small orange carrot with a sad look on her face

Take My Squash, Please!

I look down at the container of salad. It's my reward for volunteering at Agape on a Sunday. incredibly healthy, there is quinoa, garbanzo beans, kale salad and…I examine the orange cubes. Must butternut squash. Blech. I am not a fan of orange food, beginning with carrots. This may or not be the result of having been fed carrots every day when I was little to the point where I turned orange. When i see the pyrex rectangle of candied yams at holidays with a thick layer of marshmallows on top, I want to start screaming. While I recognize that many live for this vegetable, I am not one of those people. When they're cooked, they tend to be slippery and slimy and the taste is unbearable. Butternut squash also reminds me of carrots. If it's raw, it's like tasting cardboard.

"I've always detested carrots. This may or not be the result of having been fed carrots every day when I was little to the point where I turned orange."

Whose Salad Is It, Anyway?

 I decide to take the salad and eat it later. On my way out the door, Colin, the security guard, offers me his. “Do you want another one? Mine has chicken in it."

”No I’m good,"I reply. "You don’t like chicken?"

"Oh I do,  I just…"his voice trails off. Somehow I know.

"Yeah, I can’t stand squash either but all that stuff is good for you." He smiles, nodding. I have found a compadre in squash bashing.

"Thanks anyway," I say to him as I wave and get in the car. 

I’m hungry but it’s just before noon as I turn into the parking lot for the pool and the library across the street. I walk to the window outside the aquatics facility. "The pool is filled. You're going to have to wait a half hour," the lady behind the glass says. Ugh. I trot down to the library entrance but the sliding doors don’t let me in. The guy inside points to his watch and lifts one finger. Not until one o'clock. Great. Well, there’s always the salad. I go back to my car and open the lid, staring at the orange cubes.

Orange papaya flashbacks

I get a sudden flashback of something else orange: papaya. I am eleven; we are staying at Hotel Tequendama in Bogota before heading out to Ibague, the town both my parents are from in Colombia. It is early in the morning and my mother has ordered papaya. "This is a great fruit, you're going to love it," she assures me. I'm not so sure. I like the basics: bananas, apples, pineapple, maybe some berries. But this foreign fruit is something else. I remember when my fourth grade class went to visit a teacher's apartment in New York and she had brie cheese laid out for us. One of the students said "ew, I feel like I'm stuck in a closet full of smelly." At this moment I know exactly how my classmate feels. I can smell the pungent odor as soon as the waiter rolls the breakfast table into our room. I see the slice of bright orange papaya amid bread rolls, coffee and orange juice. The stench is so strong I start breathing through my mouth. Sickly sweet, it smells like a mix of vomit and old lady shoes. It's appearance is slippery and slimy, qualities in food I detest. "No gracias," I say.

"Maria del Pilar, te lo tienes que comer, you have to eat it." Mom always calls me by my entire first name when I don't cooperate. Eleven year-olds don't have a lot of say so I take a few, slow forkfuls. I consider washing it down with juice but it's too much orange in one sitting. Ten minutes later, I feel it coming up and an orange puddle suddenly appears on the hotel carpet. My mother covers it with a cloth napkin and never suggests I eat papaya again.

I look at the quinoa salad. I've just finished urging Colin to eat his which means I’m a hypocrite if I don’t do as I've said. I decide to get over myself and eat those pieces first. My slim plastic fork spears two chunks of squash. The first couple of bites aren’t half bad, like carrots. Carrots equals cardboard, no taste. Then I hit the soft, slimy part which squash enthusiasts rave about. I chase it with water quickly. There. I'm ok. Now I can enjoy the rest of the meal. It's delicious.

Somehow, over the years, I've grown into the foods I detested. Carrots? I eat those first when they're on a plate. Oranges? Every once in a while. Orange peppers? If they're in a salad I'll eat them. I have even served myself a small spoonful of holiday yams. I may not finish it but at least I've ventured out of my comfort zone. I've even had 'salpicon' a delicious fruit drink containing, you guessed it, papaya. But a whole slice by itself? Thank you, next.

Pilar Uribe is a bilingual actor and voice talent, delivering dramatic & nuanced performances across animation, feature films, television, streaming, and radio. Follow on Instagram and YouTube for more...



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