The other day, I had the unique experience of trying to open a coconut for personal consumption. It began with a butter knife and misplaced optimism. It ended with three sharp cooking knives, a multitool saw blade, a claw hammer, multiple nails of varying sizes, and one still-unrefreshed columnist. Oh, and a lounge so covered in coconut entrails that it could probably have been used as a set for a tropical-plant remake of The Silence of the Lambs.
When I first purchased the coconut, I had two images in my head. One involved making horse-clopping sounds and prancing around campus debating swallow migration patterns. The other was a memory of a childhood summer in Belize during which drinking straight from the coconut one of the most refreshing and singular experiences of my young life. Unfortunately, my knowledge of coconut anatomy was so limited, both then and now, that I had to be explicitly enlightened as to the proper means of processing a coconut. As it happens, it typically involves less leisurely straw-sipping and more slicing and scooping — and only if all goes according to plan.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with coconuts, the one I bought had already had the outer shell removed, so that my adversary consisted of a fibrous, soft husk surrounding the hard brown nut used for cooking, bowling, and tropical brassieres of questionable authenticity. Straight off the tree, a typical coconut has several layers, with the water and meat in the center to the outer green shell. Basically, it’s like an onion. A sadistic, adamantine onion.
It is with some small shame that I admit that I am so lazy with regards to food that I have on occasion purchased sliced apples while half a dozen whole apples sat uneaten in my room. Not only am I letting down my parents’ sense of thrift, I’m disappointing the environment, too. So when I tell you that I really, really wanted to get to the middle of this coconut, I hope you understand exactly how dedicated (and thirsty) I was. Desperate times (brought about my insufficient motivation to go out and buy milk or juice) called for desperate measures — which brings me back to the hammer and multitool.
At first, I was just interested in the coconut water, having fallen victim to an evening case of being lip-smackingly parched. Figuring that taking a blade to a liquid-filled sphere on the same desk where my computer sat was not and would never be a good idea, I took the coconut into the lounge, where I found a friend who was willing to lend me his high-grade cutlery. It was lucky for me he stuck around out of morbid curiosity, because he ultimately lent me the rest of my arsenal as the night went on. How close I came to borrowing a rotary saw, I don’t care to say.
Long story short, the proper means of opening a coconut, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, can mean cutting a small hole to drink from using a straw (if you’re my uncle) or pulling off the husk and tapping at the nut with a boat propeller until it separates neatly into cloppable halves (if you’re Survivorman).
It does not, however, entail hacking and slashing at the husk to create a bald spot, hammering holes in either side to drain the water over the course of fifteen minutes (which wasn’t even all that refreshing — I ended up buying an orange soda from the downstairs vending machine), perforating the coconut with even more nail holes like some bizarre tropical crucifixion, prying it half an inch open with a multitool, then bashing it with a hammer until it caves in. I don’t think the coconut farmers are going to be asking me to write an instruction manual on the process anytime soon.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some shopping to do. At least pistachios and cherries have reasonably tasty rewards for the amount of effort required to prepare them — even more so for the associated ice cream flavors.