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This is a membrillo. Or a quince, if you prefer. Judging by the trees it grows on, it must be related to apples and pears. It’s delicious cooked into a paste with a bunch of sugar and spread on bread. It’s also good baked. What is not great is membrillo eaten out of hand. At least not by me.

But this is not a story about membrillo, exactly. It is a story about being gracious when the circumstance calls for it, and how a teeny bit of Chile (but not chile, because that would hurt) may be seeping under my skin.

On my way out of the house this morning, I came across concierge 2. (there are three, and if you live in Chile, you know that having a concierge does not mean your building is fancy, it just means you have to wait for someone to open the front door for you to go in (except I procured a key, because I’m like that)). Concierge 2 is a partier, a bit of a drunkard. He often comes to work with a hangover, and feels no shame in telling me that.

He also felt no shame in recently telling me that it was “bad” that I was Jewish. This led to a fairly misinformed diatribe about how being Jewish wasn’t bad bad like murdering bad, but that I would die and suffer and blablabla. I tried to take it lightly, there’s no use getting into a fight with someone you’ll see daily, and surely I’m the first Jewish person he’s ever talked to, personally and well, whatever, I live in a Catholic country and it’s not like he was going to paint a swastika on my door. You have to choose your battles.

So today, I was just hopping out and I was presented with this (another view).

And because I live in Chile, I said, “oh, a membrillo.” And we talked about whether he’d been to the campo (countryside), or where he’d gotten them, and it turns out his mother lives in Melipilla, and how can you hate someone who just went to visit their mother over the weekend, even if they’re bit of a drunkard ignoramus.

And so instead of saying, “thanks but no thanks,” I accepted the membrillo, told him I would whack it good before eating it*, and stuck it in my bag. I did not tell him that eating raw membrillo seemed like a punishment from a god who wasn’t sure if he should make fruit or sand, so he put them both together. It seemed like a better idea not to get back to the topic of religion, anyway.

I’m home now, and aside from photographing it, and blogging it, I don’t have any plans for the membrillo. Though I’m thinking about how living in Chile has upped my politeness quotient many many percent. But I will take suggestions. On the membrillo. I think I’ve gotten to the limit of how much nicer I can be (which still is not enough for many people).

* students who bring membrillos to school whack them before eating them to make them juicier. This leads to the saying “mas machucado que membrillo (colegial)” (more bruised than a schoolroom quince).

** linguistic note, I notice that certain things I will always say in Spanish even there is a word in English because it is not a word I use in English, or because the word seems to fit better in Spanish. Three easy food examples are membrillo (quince), chirimoya (custard apple) and palta (avocado). The last one I think might be just because it is shorter, but goodness knows I did not eat as much avocado in the states as I do here.