Thursday, 18 February 2010

金柑の日 Kumquat Day

Today's school lunch was accompanied by two very small oranges, or so I thought. Actually they are called "kinkan" in Japanese, and though related to oranges and other citrus fruits, they are quite different. They have a taste similar to yuzu, though they are much sweeter; and as I began to fastidiously peel the skin of my first ever kumquat, I also learned from the well-natured laughter of my fellow teachers that they can be eaten whole, which they demonstrated to me in answer to my scowls. Ah, not the usual laughter, I was relieved to find out. In fact, whilst the skin is very sweet, the centre is somewhat more sour, so what you get is a really groovy contrast in taste, kind of similar those one penny sweets I used to eat when I was younger. Some people, I was informed, only eat the skins.

I have to say that one of the things I like most about the school lunches in Japan is that they showcase throughout the year the various seasonal fruits and vegetables, which is a wonderful way to enrich a child's education, I think. Nonetheless, there was a rather noticeable surplus of the kinkans at the end of the day, so I guess the students weren't so impressed. I was very impressed, however, by this revelatory fruit, so I pilfered quite a few on my way out the door.

The English name, kumquat, my electronic dictionary tells me, comes from the Cantonese, kan kwat, which means 'little orange'. Wikipedia begs to differ, however, giving the meaning 'golden orange' which I am more inclined to believe from looking at the original Chinese characters, 金橘.

Silly electronic dictionary!

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