Saturday, August 9, 2014
Here's a tiny tale of synchronicity from today.
Late last night I watched the film version of Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimananda Ngosi Adichie's marvelous and moving novel of the ordeals of a family and a people in the Biafran war. I had a book-lover's unease as I fired up my DVD player. Could the movie be even half as good as the novel? Actually, the film is first-rate, but I missed some pivotal scenes and character exploration, and some of the actors looked nothing like the characters who came alive in my mind as I journeyed in the world of the book.
I was prompted to start reading Purple Hibiscus, Adichie's previous novel. In chapter one, I followed a deepening family drama, told in the voice of an Igbo girl. It led to the Sunday lunch table where her father, a businessman who owns a bottling company, is planning to bring a new beverage to market: cashew juice.
His wife tells him, "They brought the cashew juice this afternoon. It tastes good. I'm sure it will sell."
The father instructs the help, "Bring two bottles of the drink they brought from the factory."
For a couple of pages, we follow what could be a taste test for cashew juice except that no one really knows what to say because the primary taste in their mouths is the ashes and vinegar of a family quarrel. "Just like white wine," says Mama, but in fact cashew juice tastes nothing like wine. The son, Jaja, in trouble for failing to go to church that day, says nothing at all. Kambili, the teen narrator, thinks it tastes like water and looks like urine, but doesn't dare to say these things.
I stopped reading after this scene, though eager for more, because it was quite late and I had errands to run in the morning.
In mid-morning, while waiting for my cats to complete their check-up at the vet, I glanced over the New York Times headlines online. Nothing good from Iraq or Gaza or Ukraine. Then I scrolled down to this headline:
Cashew Juice, the Apple of Pepsi's Eye
With rising fascination, I reviewed a long report by Stephanie Strom on how Pepsi is contemplating a huge marketing and distribution campaign, under the Tropicana brand, to make cashew juice a beverage of choice across India and then bring it into Western markets as a premium drink. "Pepsi is betting that the tangy, sweet juice from cashew apples can be the next coconut water or açaí juice." Cashew juice is produced from cashew "apples" - the red or yellow fruits that are usually thrown away after the nuts are removed. So, the basic ingredient could hardly be cheaper, though there is the slight problem of milking and treating the juice before it ferments, which it does very fast. You can't have alcohol in a Tropicana bottle.
What are the odds on reading a chapter in a 2003 novel about taste testing cashew juice as a new item in the Nigeria of the 1960s - and then reading a few hours later that a major corporation, right now, is mounting a campaign to make cashew juice a world drink?
Nothing big is going on here, in terms of a personal message. It's not one of those cases of meaningful coincidence when you feel the world has shaken your hand or slapped you in the face. This nutty little story just brings the sweet and poetic sense that everything is connected and that, truly, life rhymes.
Anacardium occidentale from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887)