‘This is one I made earlier…’, the ever-present phrase uttered on many cookery programmes. We are spared the numerous unsuccessful attempts and are left with an impression of simplicity and culinary skill we can only hope to match…
So when I bought my first coconut the other day, I was not too worried. Having the internet as my bible, I source solutions to small, big, irritating, annoying and everyday challenges. So how difficult could it be to open a coconut, with unlimited access to boundless variations on the theme.
A quick scouring of my kitchen cupboards quickly revealed the lack of a machete, hammer and chisel or any other useful tool that would make quick work of getting to the juicy flesh and refreshing coconut liquid. This called for plan B, or different search terms into Google: how to open a coconut without any tools. I was greeted with a wealth of choice: websites covering all continents and palm-growing countries where everyone offered their own adaptation. On studying the methods suggested, they all broadly fell into the same category: giving the thing an almighty whack. Sexy hunk under palm tree – an American on a backpacker’s tour? – made use of the palm tree itself and with just one expert knock opened the coconut, spilling the juice but revealing the delicious flesh.. However, he did not mention at the beginning this would only work for young coconuts, green and still in their protective husk… Well, my coconut looked like it had been round the block a few times, plus I preferred to salvage the juice. So back to the drawing board and further research!
The idea of cracking a coconut without any utensils soon appeared a figment of the imagination or maybe it just depends upon the definition of ‘tools’. Surely, a kitchen knife, a pair of scissors and a screw driver are just as much a means to an end as a hammer and chisel. If only I could use a kitchen cleaver or heavy duty knife instead of the poor palm tree itself, the insides of my coconut would be accessible, although I might still find it difficult to hold on to the liquid… But the only biggish knife in my kitchen has the blade attached to its handle with tape, which may pose some considerable problems when trying to use it to open a resisting coconut.
In the end it all came down to anatomy, the anatomy of a coconut to be precise. Some enlightened soul showed how to identify the face of the coconut, with eyes and nose. And when carefully pressing all three dots, one feels slightly softer – not sure whether this was one of the eyes, or the nose – and that is the one to poke! The sharp point of a pair of scissors was just about long enough to pierce through the skin and fleshy part of the coconut. I drained off the liquid and had successfully completed part A.
But how to open the damn thing…. In the absence of machete, hammer and chisel or a sturdy knife, I opted for the doorstep – the most solid thing around and I could be sure it would not move whilst trying to bang the coconut against it. I identified the equator of the coconut and started the process of hitting the coconut with all my might. I carried on and on and on, turning the coconut carefully until, many minutes later, the smallest crack appeared. Hooray, there was method in the madness and even more minutes and more bashes later, the crack became longer and eventually after continued perseverance and probably significant damage to the doorstep, the crack was big enough for me to prise the two halves open using a knife. I succeeded!!! What a triumph: I had coconut on my fruit salad and chopped coconut in my chicken curry and ate coconut for breakfast, lunch and with afternoon tea.
So when last weekend I found a coconut still in its husk in my garden, freshly fallen from the palm tree, I felt rather smug. Free food, and surely, I would find a way to open it! With considerable effort, I eventually managed to wrench out a small piece of the defying coconut husk, but I was no match for the tough strands of fibre and the coconut husk refused to yield. So I left the coconut at the backdoor awaiting some miracle, which duly came in the form of Anandu, who was having some serious difficulties interpreting my sending him packing (it’s amazing how his grasp of English suddenly let him down…). Anyway, he had access to tools and with a machete set to work to release the coconut from its husk-prison and after a good twenty minutes, success: I have another coconut. And, although this may have been his peace offering, I did not relent and Anandu did not get his job back.