This weekend we are in Antigua, Guatemala, for a family wedding. They say that Guatemala is the land of eternal Spring and I can't disagree. When we got off the plane, a waft of warm fragrant air and the sound of marimbas told us we were no longer in frosty Connecticut.
The drive to Antigua was unremarkable until we started to climb the mountains to see the greenery all around us. And once we arrived at our hotel, the Casa Santo Domingo, could we fully appreciate our good fortune. From a balcony outside our room, two hopefully dormant volcanos pierce the sky dominating the view. Each have chunks of a uniform green removed and replaced with rows of trees that I could only guess to be coffee, as that crop grows well in such areas. Together the farms ring the volcano, more densely at lower elevations, less so higher up.
In front of the balcony is an avocado tree flush with ripening fruit. Both Juana and my sister-in-law, Rosana, looked at it greedily imploring me to reach over to snatch the green gold held within. Blooming purple and white jasmine bushes sit below us; their flowers sending us a sweet scent this mixed with that of nearby charcoal fires while pollinated ones have already formed berries. Philodendrons wrap around the base of the avocado and the other trees in the garden below our room eliminating the first 10 feet of the trunk from view.
As we walk the streets, most of the native Indian vendors in their colorful garb hawk equally colorful table runners, napkins, etc. But what captures our interest is the fruit. Early in the morning we see one woman taking her place on a corner transferring her basket of carefully wrapped fruit from her head to the street. In it are individually wrapped slices of pineapple, mango, papaya and bananas. While they look tempting, we know that one bite could be our last of good health for the remainder of the trip. (At our hotel, we have been fueling our fruity desires at breakfast with all fruits tropical confident that our intestinal fauna will not be taxed.)
But then we find a vendor selling jocotes. "Chochi, they have jocotes!" exclaimed Juana excited by her good luck. It is one of their favorite childhood fruits. Juana couldn't resist. After bargaining, she purchased two different types of jocotes: jocote de maranon, which is the fruit from which cashew nuts emerge, and regular jocotes. We took a bag home and Juana carefully washed them in the sink with soap and water, "just like Lucia would," and we started to bite and suck out the sweet innards. Jocotes don't have much flesh forcing me to spin its inner nut in my mouth so I can extract all of the flavor. Juana tells me I am leaving too much pulp as she spits out a nut devoid of any of its yellow innards.
Its cashew-bearing counterpart has much more flesh but isn't as sweet. Not so much to my liking. But to Juana with a big smile on her face it didn't matter. She was home.