‘We realised we were reacting to something we’d eaten, but as we tried to work out what, we became confused’
I went to Sicily to learn about Mediterranean horticulture as part of my degree. I’d agreed to work in an ornamental garden on a huge estate for six months, helping to grow crops for the local culinary school to use in their experimental Sicilian cuisine. One night a couple of months in, though, things got more experimental than I had bargained for.
I was sharing a cottage in the grounds with two other foreign students, an American and a Canadian. One evening, they returned from a foraging trip with some leaves they’d found on the estate, which they had identified as chard. They were already cooking when I got in from the garden. It was late and I was ravenous, and I ate at least twice as much of the boiled greens as either of the others. It was a good meal, slightly bitter, but that’s not unusual in the region and, seasoned with salt and a little lemon juice, it went down a treat.
For dessert, we had fresh blood oranges, but I took one bite and spat mine out – it was mouldy. The other two had the same reaction, but when we examined the fruit they looked perfectly fresh. Rinsing our mouths out with bottled water didn’t help, either – that had the same mouldy taste. We realised we must all be reacting to something we’d eaten, but as we tried to work out what, we became confused.
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