Why I Hate Apples

You know, it's funny. When I tell people who ask me why I hate apples, they actually understand. In the past, they laughed. But lately, more and more people seem to have something that they won't touch either, for anything. Somehow, I feel a little relieved.

It used to be that I couldn't even be in the same room with an apple because the smell makes me nauseous. That's pretty bad when you live in Quebec, because, as you probably know, Quebec is a champion at growing apples - they're everywhere! 

Those who know and care even a little about me don't eat apples when I'm around. But when I'm in public places or with people I don't know, I can't tell them not to eat apples. Instead, I slip away gracefully. Sometimes I can't, at least not immediately. A couple of weeks ago, I was at a seminar, and one of the men brought a bag full of apples for everyone to enjoy during break. There were about 15 people in the room eating apples, and the door was closed. I nearly passed out.

It all goes back to when I was about 2 years old. At that time, we were living in Bonefro, our little hometown in Italy. My father had been working for several years in France, Germany and Switzerland, while my mother was with my brother Giovanni, my sister Maria, and me in Italy. 

Then, with many tears and incredible sacrifice, my parents decided that they would make a lot more if they both worked, so they put the plans in motion. My brother was placed in a college run by priests in a nearby town called Casacalenda, my sister and I were placed in an orphanage run by nuns in our town, and my parents both went to Switzerland to work like mad. After 3 years of this arrangement, they had enough money to put a down payment on a condo in Bologna, and we were all celebrating the family's permanent reunion. 

That's when the papers for immigration to Canada came through, so we came here instead. But I digress...

My sister and I were in this orphanage but obviously, we weren't orphans. Our parents paid the nuns for keeping us, and the nuns gave us a little more attention than the other poor souls there. 

The nuns depended on the goodness of the townspeople. When the farmers had good crops, they would usually give whatever they could for the children. Altogether, we were about 20 girls from the age of 2 (me, the youngest) to some just under 18.

One day I roamed around the big building by myself and was lost for several hours. Everybody was looking for me for a long time, but I was in my own world. I ended up in the pantry where everything was, and I was alone! 

Since everything was always rationed, we never had enough of what we wanted. So imagine how I felt when I opened one of the cabinets, and saw bushels of apples!

When I saw all those apples, I flipped. I sat there and started eating them, so many of them! After a while, I was taking only one bite out of each and going on to the next. I must have gone through a good part of the bushel, because I've never gotten over it.

When the nuns finally found me after hours of searching in and out of the building, and saw what I had done, they weren't amused at all. I got the beating of my life. I got so sick that I still feel repulsed by apples, to this day.

It's bad enough not to eat apples, but if you want it even worse, try being a vegetarian. Every time that I meet someone that I could eventually end up eating with, I have to explain the situation. No meat, no seafood, no poultry, no fish, no apples. My nightmare dish: pork chops with apple sauce.

When people ask me why I'm a vegetarian, I answer honestly: because I love animals, and can't stand the thought of eating one. Many are amazed at my restraint, as if I was doing something heroic and impossible. Others pity me for not enjoying the great taste of dead flesh. 

But I remember a day, when somehow I was at a slaughterhouse. I was just a kid, but I still remember the smell and sound of anguish, the horror of the death chain, the continuous screams of animal after animal. I cried and asked how anybody can do that, and the adults said that animals have no feelings. I never believed it. If you have a pet, you can't possibly believe it either.

One night I read a book called "Chère Michelle". In one part, the emotional process of the slaughtered animal is described and I realized that what I felt as a kid was true - animals do feel. I didn't eat much meat to begin with, but from that moment, I never ate meat again.

In case you're wondering, it's been a very long time, well over a decade. I'm not the fussiest or most careful of eaters, and still my health is great. In fact, my doctor says that people would pay to have my cholesterol and protein numbers. The best part is that nobody has to die for me to be alive. 

Wishing Only Well,

Carmen Colombo
November 1997

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