My mother and her siblings were Canadians born on a cotton and peanut plantation in Paraguay. They grew up eating a variety of delicious fresh fruit and vegetables, native to the country. However, they only tasted apples, a Canadian staple, once during their years in Paraguay.
In the 1950’s my mother, Margaret, attended a one-room school house. The school year ended at the end of October and didn’t start up again until beginning of March. This was their summer season in Paraguay and it was a scorching heat.
A Christmas Surprise
During Margaret’s school years, the students would return to school during the first two weeks of December in order to prepare a Christmas program. In 1953 the students experienced an unusual event. On the last day of their December school class, the students arrived at school to find a very strong aroma wafting throughout the school house. This aroma brought mixed reactions. Some of the students thought it smelled delicious, while others found it overwhelmingly distasteful. The teacher was quite excited to present a Christmas surprise to the students. A package had arrived from North America. Each child was receiving an apple, wrapped in purple paper, as a Christmas present.
Margaret was eight years old at the time and had five other siblings attending school with her. They were quite excited to bring their apples home to the family and looked forward to tasting something that wasn’t able to be grown in Paraguay and which the teacher insisted was delicious.
Once at home, the siblings shared their apples with their parents. Margaret’s parents were especially pleased. They remembered eating apples in their childhood and hadn’t tasted them since they arrived in Paraguay many years ago. Margaret found the smell unpleasant and didn’t want to taste her apple. In total, the family had six apples to share, one for each school-age child.
The Tasting Begins
Margaret’s parents cut the apples into slices and handed them around to each child. Margaret was sure the apples weren’t ripe – after all, they were still hard and all white on the inside. Her parents insisted these apples were ripe and the children would find the apples delicious once they tasted them. As Margaret bit into the apple, she was surprised at the hard texture and the lack of juice. The only fruit she had ever tasted was soft and very juicy. She felt this could not be a real fruit. It was more like a raw potato! YUK!
The Apple is Spit Out
Each child, after tasting the apple slice, immediately spit it out. They were all disgusted and couldn’t understand how the school thought this would be a good Christmas gift for them. One of the boys mentioned that something that smelled so good shouldn’t be allowed to taste so bad.
The Parents Have a Treat
Margaret’s parents were surprised and disappointed at their children’s reactions. They grew up in Canada appreciating the taste of apples, so for them this was truly a very special treat. It had been twenty years since they had tasted apples. They enjoyed every bite of the six apples that their children refused to eat. Unfortunately, it would be another twenty years before they tasted another apple.
No More Apples in Paraguay
The school never repeated this Christmas ‘gift’ for the students. It was overwhelmingly a bust. Apples were not seen in Paraguay again for many decades. Margaret and her family returned to Canada in the 1970’s where they quickly learned to appreciate and love the taste of apples. Today you will find apples in many Paraguayan stores. However, most of our relatives that have remained there rarely purchase apples, since they prefer eating fruit such as papayas, mangoes, guava and citrus fruits which they grow on their properties.
Margaret's childhood home in Paraguay, surrounded with fruit trees - no apple trees
I Love Apples
I have grown up in Canada, although I was born abroad. I grew up eating apples and love everything apple to this day, so the thought of my parents finding their first taste of apples disgusting, has always fascinated me. It's been a lesson for me to give different foods a first and even a second or third try. Many times it's taken a few attempts to discover a food I first found distasteful become something I now eat with relish.