you say lemon, I say limón…

Hello everyone.!! Please forgive me for my absence last week, my life got in the way of my writing.!! Please accept this post from last August. And I will have a fresh one for you tomorrow 🙂

howdoyousaytacoinspanish

courtesy of roadkilltshirts.com courtesy of roadkilltshirts.com

During my early days in Mexico, I spent my time feverishly hunting down lemons. Don’t get me wrong, I love limes..!! They are great in key lime pie, on my tacos and in cervezas..!! But every once in a while, I would want a lemon. Sometimes, I wanted to make Greek lemon potatoes or lemon chicken or even lemonade. So I would meander down to Wal-Mart, or the Mega grocery store or even the fruit and vegetable market, DAC. I would wander around the store aimlessly and without success seeking lemons. Finally, I would locate a store employee for assitance.

A typical exchange with one of the store employees would frequently go like this –

MePerdone, ¿dónde están los limones? Where are the lemons?
SESon cerca de las naranjas. They are near the oranges.
MeOk, gracias. Ok, thank you.

At…

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a rose by any other name…

courtesy of floresallium.com

courtesy of floresallium.com

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is an oft quoted line in William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. In that scene, Juliet argues that the names of things do not matter, only what things “are”. And I would have to agree with her as a person who has a variety of nicknames. It’s not even that I have the same nickname among varied people. I actually have multiple nicknames among many people.! And I am still who I am even if you call me Rose, Rosita, Rosalinda or Rosalina 🙂

Every nickname reminds me of a time, a place or person. Some even remind me of Mexico. The other day I was driving home from work and in front of me was a car with a vanity plate. I love vanity plates as I usually take them to be signs from the universe. Except for the vanity plate SPINSTER I saw frequently in my old neighborhood before I moved to Mexico. That was just cruel and probably the real reason I moved to Mexico was to get away from that pinche plate.!! jajaja

courtesy of xochitlphilly.com

courtesy of xochitlphilly.com

But I digress…. The license plate in front of me the other day had XOCHITL on it. Xochitl means flower in the Aztec language of Nahuatl.!! How cool is that.!?! In downtown Chicago even.! When I lived in playa, I met several women with the name Xochitl. I think it’s a really unusual and beautiful name. It’s pronounced ‘Soh cheel’ or ‘Soh cheet’ depending on whom you ask.

The reason this name resonates with me is because there is no way to say Rose (name) or rose (flower) in Aztec Nahuatl. Roses, flowers and apparently girls with that name, were not native to Mexico and so the original inhabitants of that land did not need a word for Rose/rose. Therefore, Xochitl embodies every flower name including mine.!

courtesy of loltun.net

courtesy of loltun.net

The Mayans in the Yucatan also did not have a word for Rose/rose for the very same reason. In Yucatecan Mayan, flower is translated as lol.! Yes, lol.! Isn’t that fantastic.!! A Mayan guy who was flirting with me one day at a bar decided he was going to call me lol.! Seriously, I’m not making this up… My friend K. liked it so much, she called me lol for almost a whole year.! So for example, if you find yourself in the Riviera Maya and you go to visit Lol-Tun cave, you are visiting Flower Stone cave.

Even in Spanish, my name is interesting and so a whole other nickname was born. Rose/rose translates to Rosa/rosa. But Rosa/rosa is also used to express the color pink.! Or the rockstar.! My ex-novio used to call me Rosa even though most of my other Mexican friends just called me Rose.!! They thought it was hilarious that he called me ‘pink’.! I just thought it was cute. And yet even with all of these monikers, epithets, pet names and terms of endearments, I am still me. And just like Juliet said, I smell pretty good too.!!

you say lemon, I say limón…

courtesy of roadkilltshirts.com

courtesy of roadkilltshirts.com

During my early days in Mexico, I spent my time feverishly hunting down lemons. Don’t get me wrong, I love limes..!! They are great in key lime pie, on my tacos and in cervezas..!! But every once in a while, I would want a lemon. Sometimes, I wanted to make Greek lemon potatoes or lemon chicken or even lemonade. So I would meander down to Wal-Mart, or the Mega grocery store or even the fruit and vegetable market, DAC. I would wander around the store aimlessly and without success seeking lemons. Finally, I would locate a store employee for assitance.

A typical exchange with one of the store employees would frequently go like this –

MePerdone, ¿dónde están los limones? Where are the lemons?
SESon cerca de las naranjas. They are near the oranges.
MeOk, gracias. Ok, thank you.

At which point, I would head over to the oranges and only see limes..!! I would return back to the store employee…

MeUmm..perdone. Esas son las limas. Umm..excuse me. Those are limes.
SENo señora, esos son los limones. No ma’am, those are lemons.

courtesy of baconismagic.ca

courtesy of baconismagic.ca

At which point, I would smile and mutter gracias and walk away. I cannot even begin to enumerate for you the countless times this exchange occurred until I finally just gave up. Uncle, I yelled..!! There were no lemons in Mexico.! And if there were any lemons, there was a monumental conspiracy to keep them away from me.! Interestingly enough, all the research that I have done on the matter has in no way enlightened me. I am just as confused, but more accepting.

The first thoery posits that there are very few lemons in Mexico. The lemons that are produced are either exported or used primarily for lemon peel oil. Some theorists suggest environmental conditions may play a role in the limited supply of lemons. Also, lemons are very rarely grown as fresh fruit in the Latin American market. The motive for this lack of production may be the lime’s status as a major commodity in Latin America, and Mexico specifically. The lime is usually used for similar purposes as the lemon.

courtesy of oxypowder.net

courtesy of oxypowder.net

The second theory proposes that besides the botanical issue, there is a linguistic quirk regarding the etymology of the word lemon. Apparently, limón is chiefly used to refer to limes in Mexican Spanish. However, in the Yucatan, the regular Spanish word for lemon which is lima is also used to describe limes.!! Ok, now I’m really confused..?! Can you see why I gave up? So, all along in the grocery store whether I was asking for limónes or limas, I was really asking for limes.! Wow.!

So then, how do you ask for a lemon in Mexico.? According to Rick Bayless, author of several prominent Mexican cookbooks and restaurateur extraordinaire, they are called limónes reales or real lemons.!! At this point, I’m laughing. And on the floor. jajajaja… Who knew.?! Mr. Bayless also points out that he has only seen these real lemons sold in the northwest of Mexico, which of course is nowhere near Quintana Roo.

courtesy of wallpaperbod.com

courtesy of wallpaperbod.com

Amazingly enough, I learned to survive without lemons. I made chicken or tilapia with lime and cilantro. Instead of lemonade, I learned to love jamaica té or hibiscus tea. Not having
access to lemons opened up my world and expanded my cooking abilities. In fact, I also learned how to chuckle in the produce section every time I heard a new gringo/a ask the same question with frustration. I had been liberated from my lemon quest.!

And it was divine..!! I learned to appreciate a world where the lime reigned supreme. It was either that or go home. And after all, just like the Gershwins’ tune, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”,

‘But oh, if we call the whole thing off
Then we must part
And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart’

And as you all know how I feel about Mexico, I stayed. And I learned to say limóne, while you say lemon 🙂