Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Tale Of The Wedding Physalis

The Fruit Within
Photograph by Twoshoes3 on Flickr
Last week's Graze box contained a punnet of 'Italian Stallion'.  It wasn't half as exotic as it sounds.  It was a mix of green raisins, blueberries, cranberries and dried physalis.  I ferreted through the tray and removed all the physalis before adding the rest of the fruit to my bowl of Special K.  I just can't eat physalis, you see.  Not because I think they're disgusting or because they repulse me (mind you, they don't look very pretty in dried form) but because my late Great Auntie Jean choked on one at a wedding. Before I tell The Tale Of The Wedding Physalis I'll just point out that she's not late Great Auntie Jean because of the physalis incident.  Jean died a few years back due to general old age.

The wedding in question was my Uncle Jim's, over a decade ago.  He and his wife had a big do at a hotel in Oxfordshire.  After the ceremony we all trooped into a huge room for the wedding breakfast.  That's a misleading weddingy term, isn't it?  If I was to have a wedding breakfast I would make sure it was a proper lavish fry up with hash browns, tomato ketchup and countless platters of bacon sandwiches too.  How good would that be? Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, wedding breakfast.  We all took our places at the big round tables.  On ours was myself, Mum, Dad, Sally, Auntie Dorothy, Great Uncle John and Great Auntie Jean.  Auntie Jean had suffered a major stroke a few years before and because of this she was in a wheelchair. She couldn't speak without the aid of a machine - it was like a super-advanced Speak & Spell - but she only used this every now and again.  Her husband, John, was wonderful with her.  He cared for her and understood her and although she couldn't join in with conversations we would include her and she would sit there listening, nodding and smiling.  Because of the stroke she could only eat food that was soft or had been liquidised so when it came to dessert that day she had ice cream in place of the chocolate cakey thing that we'd all eaten. We were on the coffee and after dinner mints when the waiter brought Jean's ice cream along, just as the speeches had started.  The bowl contained three scoops of ice cream topped with a physalis for decoration.

The room was hushed and we listened to the speeches, tittering along in all the right places when all of a sudden Auntie Jean started making terrible coughing noises.  She'd been eating her ice cream quite happily but none of us had thought to remove the physalis from her bowl and she'd eaten it.  Whole.  Complete with its stalk and crispy dried leaves.

She'd gone an awfully funny colour and the coughing turned into wheezing and rasping and she had a really frightened look on her face.  The best man carried on with his speech.  Sally and I looked at each other and then we stared at Mum with wide-eyed "Mum! Do something!" faces.  She alerted Uncle John (who was quite deaf) and he jumped up and started shouting, "Jean!  What have you done?!  What have you eaten?" and he began whacking her on the back.  The best man carried on regaling the guests with funny stories about Uncle Jim that I wish I could have listened to but we had a right drama happening at our table.  Auntie Jean's choking noises got worse and Mum joined in with helping Uncle John.  He walked behind Jean and wrapped his arms around her torso and he started performing the Heimlich Maneuver shouting "Spit it OUT, Jean!  Spit the bloody thing OUT!".

And thankfully Jean did.

All of a sudden the physalis shout out of her face, flew across the table and landed on the plate of after dinner mints where it rolled around the rim of the plate like some kind of spit-covered orange ball on a chocolate mint roulette table and it finally came to rest amid the Bendicks.

Red 19
Photograph by greendrz on Flickr
Uncle John wiped Auntie Jean's mouth, told her off quite sternly and everybody sat back down and continued listening to the speeches.  I say ten out of ten to the best man for carrying on throughout the whole Auntie Jean kerfuffle.

Auntie Jean resumed her ice cream eating.

Mum and Dad looked harassed but relieved.

Uncle John was muttering under his breath.

Auntie Dorothy seemed totally oblivious to the whole brouhaha.

Sally and I were silently giggling.

Nobody touched the plate of after dinner mints.

The Tale Of The Wedding Physalis is one of those things that was really quite alarming and dramatic at the time.  I'd only ever seen the Heimlich Maneuver performed on Casualty before. But now the story has become one of those "Do you remember when ... ?" family anecdotes that gets recounted every couple of years.  Both Sally and I now refer to physalis as 'Auntie Jeans' as in, "The pudding was posh.  It had an Auntie Jean on top and everything!"

So that's why I don't eat physalis.  I can't say I was mad about them anyway.  I've always thought they're a bit nothingy.

I don't think Great Auntie Jean thought much of them either.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm heading over to Graze to click the 'bin' button on the Auntie Jeans .....


Apryl said...

so that's what those things are called. I don't like them anyway. They remind me of persimmons which I really hate but always make me giggle madly because Matt never had one till he met me and I got him to buy one at the fruit shop and he took a big bite and though he didn't choke it does make your mouth feel tingly and dry and the look on his face it still makes me giggle to this day. horrid fruit that. right up there with black currants.

Judith Johnston said...

Great story Laura. I'm glad it had a happy ending and from now on I will be calling them Auntie Jeans too. I hope you dont mind :D

Lynz said...

Oooh, I have a physalis wedding story! My wee sister-in-law was recounting the fancy do she'd been at the previous week and announced "...and the pud was great, it had syphalis on it!!"


I agree they taste a bit meh, though!

Jessica said...

Is it wrong that I found that funny? It must be the way you tell 'em! Your story made me chuckle but I'm glad all turned out well.

Laura said...

Thanks, ladies!

Apryl - I've never tried a persimmon. I don't think I will now, either. Poor Matt!

Bonj, Judith! Nope, of course I don't mind. ;-)

Lynz - that's hilarious! Nobody wants *that* on their pudding!

Jessica - not at all. It was funny and it gets funnier every time I think about it!

Laura x

Sue Doran said...

I don't know how I managed to miss this gem of a story! :-)

I too am disappointed by the taste of Auntie Jeans. My dad grew some when I was a youngster and I remember the fruit being absolutely delicious, very sweet and exotic. I've been looking for some that taste as good ever since. It's probably like many things, they always taste better when you grow them yourself. Home grown potatoes and tomatoes are nothing like the ones in shops; far superior.