Coconuts run deep in my blood. It might sound weird but the 1950s Edmonton neighbourhood I called home my first five years on the planet had some pretty exotic stuff.
For one, the Sahara movie theatre was right down the street beside the library. With its El Mocambo-style lobby riddled with fabulous fake palm trees and ersatz Egyptian-styled gilt (more gyp than Egypt), it was a kid-magnet unto itself. Never mind the movies, the theatre itself was the No. 2 highlight.
No. 1 was going across the street after the show to Woodward's Food Floor with my sister and buying either a pomegranate (her favourite) or a hairy brown coconut (mine) for 25 cents and lugging it home.
We could handle the pomegranate, but my dad was the coconut king. He'd expertly pound a nail into the "eyes" — the three small indentations on one end that make a little face on what I still see as a coconut head — to drain out the water inside. Then he'd expertly tap, tap, tap the thing with a hammer until it cracked open into chunks so the tasty white flesh could be pried out with a knife.
Decades later, when I lived in Hawaii, we'd make bets on how long it would take for the coconuts bobbing in the water, still in their big outer husks, to reach the beach where we were sitting under coconut palms that may well have started in the same way.
On Kirabati (pronounced Kira-bas), a tiny coral atoll that's part of Micronesia and sits inches above sea level in the middle of the Pacific, my dear husband's brain, temporarily cooked by the equatorial sun, directed him to climb a palm to get me a coconut, me shouting quite loudly all the while that I didn't really want one.
He fell out, empty-handed, but managed to land near a couple of old ones lying on the ground, their guts already fermented in that same white heat.
As if by reminder, the house we just sold came equipped with a righteous hole in the counter compliments of another run-in he had with a coconut while I was trying to explain to him that, yes, you did pound it with a hammer to open it, but you first placed a towel wadded up underneath to prevent collateral damage.
With all this coconut lore trailing good memories behind it like so much desiccated coconut powder-dust, I'm happy to see a new wave of coconuts hit us.
Coconuts are actually the stone of the coconut drupe — "drupe" meaning a fleshy fruit. The big, thick, natural outer husk, according to scientist and author Harold McGee, is actually a fibrous fruit layer. It was once a novelty seen only in tropical countries where coconuts grow, such as the Philippines, India and Indonesia, which together produce most of the world's coconut crop.