I missed out on two things in my childhood: sour candy and game systems.
I was 17 when the Nintendo game console and the candy ‘Sour Patch Kids‘, surged to popularity. Instead of embracing the dexterity of button pushing and mouth puckering sugar rushes, I was captivated by boys and the depths of pseudo-maturity that a copy of e.e. cummings and a Bob Marley bumper sticker could provide.
I could take or leave the gaming, Its the pleasure that people take in sour flavors that I envy.
Belize is home to sour lovers.
Native fruits from limes and grapefruits, to sour oranges and tangerines have the citric acid punch that is prized in rounding out the flavor of dishes like ceviche, rice-and-beans, and tacos. Sour juices are an essential step in the flavor layers that cooks create, macerating meats and seafood before they are seasoned, cooked and served.
Does eating extremely sours flavor, change the shape of the tongue the way that your first language shapes the muscles of your throat and face? Probably not; however there is a definite acclimation that occurs. Belizeans start young. “We eat them as babies.” referring to sour limes. “I loved it when I was kid.” and “We put it in baby bottles.” referring to grapefruit and orange juice.
I have taught myself to enjoy sour flavor, naturally through fermented foods that are part of my everyday diet like sour cream and cabbage. I have also forced myself to try everything in the spirit of gourmet adventure. I get smiles and pokes when I eat something that is overpowering; the words, “Couldn’t handle it!” and “Too much for you!” ring in my head.
My office mates in Belize City had a good laugh when they handed me a bag of their much-loved sapra.
Sapra are a small, green round fruit, the size the half of grape with the firmness of a fresh cranberry. They are in season during Christmas holiday through February. Streetside vendors sell them in large or small bags, complete with a side seasoning bag of chiles and salt.
They will turn an inexperienced eater into a vacuum, puckering and sucking for breath.
I couldn’t concentrate on anything but relief. The hard seed inside was an oasis from the overpowering flesh. On the first try, I had to spit it politely into a napkin, The next time, I let it sit under my tongue and then gently bit into the fruit. It was sour, but also flavorful and bitter. The texture of the flesh was chewy and mildly thirst quenching.
Sapra are in season now and can be found all over the city. Make sure you add the chile and salt for the extra bite.
Kristin Fuhrmann Simmons