Navel orange prompts yearnings for the good, old days

I want to go back to the old normal. The other day I decided to eat the navel orange that was bought at the AutoMercado. It obviously was imported, like many products and foods that we eat today. We can get them all year round from both hemispheres. I used to love navel oranges. Oranges and eggs were all I wanted to eat when I was pregnant with my daughter, Lesley.

I haven’t eaten a California navel in perhaps 20 years. If they are now like the one I tried almost in vain to peel and section, I hope never to have another. Instead of the peel coming off easily, half of it stuck to the orange. It was impossible to pull apart the sections (which are practically the definition of a navel) and it was almost tasteless except for the vague sourness of it. But, we can get them all year round, can’t we? And they travel better if they are picked before they are ripe.

When TV anchors ask some economist or someone in government in the U.S. if we are going to have to find a ‘new normal,’ the responder shies from the question, or denies it vehemently. “No, No, it will just take time to get to where we were.” (meaning just before the recession.) Well, I don’t want to go there, I want a new normal that is more like it used to be when a California navel orange was easy to peel, and one could eat the neat sections one at a time, when just picked corn on the cob was so delicious it brought tears to your eyes, appreciated all the more because it was only available during corn season. It was the same with those wonderful beefsteak tomatoes that with a little salt and mayonnaise were ambrosia.

Perhaps people began to eat more in search of something that would satisfy their taste buds. There just might be less obesity if people could savor every bite, instead of eating genetically altered food that grows in abundance and travels well across waters but not from the mouth to the stomach.

People had gardens and orchards (We had the most delicious green apple tree). Nothing was better than a rhubarb just pulled out of the earth. I had a habit of chewing on stones, and our local doctor told my mother, “She’ll outgrow it.” Most kids were expected to get chicken pox and/or measles and recover. Asthma was almost unknown. Scarlet fever and polio, however, were threats.

You didn’t have to belong to a gym. Every school had a gym and playing fields for softball or football. Schools had gym and music, bands and chorus, and typing and home economics and shop and even theater. Those were the subjects and activities that kept us in school.

On the downside, home economics was for girls and shop for boys. And you seldom saw a mixture of races in the schools. But there is no reason to go back to the stupid stuff.

As for TV and cell phones and the Internet, well, we didn’t miss them because we didn’t even know they could exist. We were playing outside with our friends, not texting them. And we had radio and our imaginations. Now we don’t need to use that creative part of our minds because we can see it all on TV coming from (and controlled by) the creative mind of someone else. Often, with many of the mysteries and police thrillers today, we see enough graphic gory killings in one evening that would suffice for a lifetime.

We could go back to buying locally grown food and enjoy it mightily when it is in season. To not programming our children’s activities, let them play outside and make up their own games (now it would have to be with supervision) and get a little dirty. Doctors are beginning to tell parents that maybe antiseptic surroundings are not an especially good way to raise healthy kids.

Fortunately, Costa Rica has a head start on this old new normal. So much grows here locally, one can be happy with home grown food. Children still play outside safely, and family and friends still gather in person to enjoy each other’s company. Those who live here take pride in taking good care of their part of the earth. Cell phones are, to my mind, a growing menace, I must admit.

Actually, I think these ideas are taking hold in many countries. But it not going to be easy . . . it is back to small is beautiful, not the bigger the better.

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