When we stopped by a rustic roadside fruit stand on the outskirts of Manzanillo, Mexico, I wasn’t expecting to eat anything, much less a spiked fruit the size of a large watermelon called a jaca.
Our guide Donato told us when you open a jaca, also known as jackfruit, you never know what flavor you’ll get – coconut, papaya, mango, pineapple? When I tried a taste, it reminded me of all of those fruits, but was distinctly its own.
Look at it. This fruit just looks badass. Getting inside for a taste is no easy task, but the payoff is as big as this fruit.
I asked for a place to wash off the stubborn sap-like residue from my jaca-handling experience. Donato pointed out the huge plastic blue bin of still water with a well-worn, dirt-stained bar of soap next to it. It did the job.
For our next leap of faith, we ordered the jaca juice from a large wooden barrel. The smiling girl ladled the sweet, slightly bitter juice into a cup.
Having been told not to drink the water in Mexico hundreds of times, I knew better. But I did it and lived to tell about it incident-free. Sometimes you just have to go for it. (Disclaimer: Don’t go for it unless you have a stomach of steel, as apparently I do. My stepdaughters didn’t fare so well. Montezuma’s revenge struck upon our return.)
As crazy as it might sound, the fruit stand experience was a trip highlight. I love seeing how others live and watching the locals beam with pride as they show you something unique about their culture.
The smile on your face acts like a mirror, reflecting the happiness that comes from sharing and learning. If only we could bottle that wonder and feeling of discovery, and use it in all of our experiences with others not quite like ourselves. The world would be a better place.
Next time you get to try something different like visiting a fruit stand in rural Mexico, stop, taste (with caution) and smile. You never know what flavor you’ll get.