Sunday, July 1, 2007


When I was a kid, many of us neighborhood kids would play kickball in the street in front of our house, with Mrs. Snyderman's Volkswagen station wagon for first, the manhole cover at the top of the street for second, and the corner between our driveway and that of the house next door for third. Home plate faced the intersection, so the players at second base were always the first to see the produce truck.

It was a big green truck with short white and green striped awnings that hung over the shelves of fruit and vegetables that were for sale. I don't remember his name, but I think it was Joe, followed by something Italian (I asked Mom if she remembered his name and she said she's not sure she ever knew it). He was balding, had thick hands and a paunch, and wore light brown pants and an orange polo shirt. While the neighborhood wasn't that fancy when I was growing up, it wasn't the ethnic enclave in which he probably did more business, but he was always friendly to us kids playing in the street.

I don't remember many adults buying produce from his truck on our street, but we kickballers always talked to him, admiring the size of the truck or the awnings. One day he had these small, slightly fuzzy yellow-orange fruits on the shelf. I had never seen that before, so I asked him what it was.

"This, Muffin," he said, holding one in his big hand, "Is an apricot."

At that time, my favorite thing to eat was dried apricots. They were sweet, tart, tough, chewy, and I liked to suck on them as if they were hard candy. I had never seen a fresh apricot and didn't even know they were something one ate without their being dehydrated. "I didn't know they came fresh,"
I told him. I didn't tell him no one had ever called me "Muffin" before (or has done so since), and I liked it.

The produce man gave me the apricot and said I should eat it. The fruit was soft, with a hint of the concentrated apricot flavor I was used to from the dried version, neither too sweet nor tart. The difference between dried and fresh was that between standing next to the radio and hearing music on the breeze. I liked that, too.

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