Back in the States this last trip, I realized the one thing I really really missed for that two weeks was ... papaya. I told people back home that I missed it, and they forwarded me along to the supermarket where they were sure I would be able to find it.
Not the same. If your idea of a papaya is a pallid, dry, gourdlike fruit, usually already cut in half and saran-wrapped to display its few measly seeds left over after processing, you have never experienced papaya.
I must now help you comprehend the papaya and why I missed it so.
Every other morning, I wake up and go on a run around my "neighborhood." Before 7am, the streets are quiet and empty, stores haven't opened yet, and it's the perfect time for a quick jog. By about 7am, I'm turning the corner, heading home, dodging cars and people and motorcycles galore. My stomach is usually already growling, and at just this moment, I happen upon our corner fruitstand, tarp juuuust being taken down to display the multicolored explosion of at least two dozen types of fresh fruits. YUM. I am no stranger to this situation, and I usually have a few RMB shoved in a pocket somewhere, ready to buy my breakfast.
They usually have at least three varieties of papaya. Each with different lengths, color, shapes, skin textures. I choose one that has clear skin, is just lightly soft to the touch, and hopefully the perfect size (they can sometimes be larger than my head). One of these medium-sized papayas costs me about 7RMB ($1.00).
Back in the kitchen while my coffee is brewing (my personal import from Whole Foods on each trip back to the States), I check email, read the NYTimes, upload silly pictures of papaya and soymilk onto my blog ...
And then, as the coffee is just about ready, I slice the papaya in half to reveal its juicy, hot-orange and black-dotted core, put it on a plate, pour my coffee, add the vile soymilk, pull out a spoon and gently dig in to the yummiest fruit on earth. Yes, I eat the seeds too, they're edible, spicy, and add the perfect crunchy balance to the rest of the fruit. Bon appetit!