Monday, April 23, 2007

Sidebar: The Sugared Almond Syndrome

When we were getting hitched in Sardinia, we followed the custom of presenting our guests with bonbonniere as a memento of the day. They were basically little silk bags of sugared almonds tied up with a nice ribbon and tiny dried flowers. Why? I have no idea. It was the done thing, and we (to our eternal regret) did the done thing till it was done to death. These tokens were received with smiles and thanks by the Italian side, and with ohs, ahs and the occasional huh? by the Irish/English contingent. One of our English friends was to be plagued for days afterwards over the phone by her mother, because she made the mistake of recounting the Tale of the Sugared Almonds.

"But why sugared almonds, Sheila!" came the plaintiff telephonic cry from somewhere in middle England. The poor woman was desperate to know. Clearly she felt that there was some great meaning behind the gesture, some wisdom of the ages, some lost secret of antiquity, some eye-watering truth-and-beauty, wrapped up in silk and sugar, it's significance lost to the common locals despite - or perhaps because of - it's very popularity.

All perfect bollocks, of course.

They're sweeties. "Thanks for coming, thanks for the pressie, now go home and practice my new spouse's foreign-sounding name and see if you can master it by our 10th anniversary". That's what it means.

But our friend's mother saw something else in it, and felt that as it was of another culture, it should be imbued with an import that it really didn't deserve. I've seen it exhibited time and time again in various forms, the Sugared Almond Syndrome. It's harmless enough but it does remind me of the way US tourists coming here to Ireland would use the work quaint to describe all kinds of crap. Oh look - he's taking out his teeth and lifting his lower lip around his nose! How quaint. (That wasn't quaint of course - it was evidence of poverty and a dilapidated mental health system that hasn't improved much since - though as least the quality of US tourist has).

So - a shit-covered toilet is a shit-covered toilet. I can find them here without looking too hard, so I won't be wallowing in excrement elsewhere in some vain attempt to get closer to the culture. And a sugar-covered almond is a sugar-covered almond, and assuming I don't find it in one of the aforementioned toilets, well, I think I might just eat it.


Anonymous said...

what alot of crap......respect other nations cultures thats what i say

Brendan Lawlor said...

Quite right! Hear hear! Bravo!

Oh. Hang on.

That you, Phil?