IMHO Installment #11: You May As Well Read This

23 Mar 2007

IMHO, you may as well read this brief tale about Pan.

Years back, I'd read an article in High Times about an exotic stimulant available mainly in India called betel nut. It's the main ingredient in the Indian treat known as Pan -- and an experience I had with the stuff made it into the unfinished novel I'd quoted within this blog before ( here, for example). Wormstooth's comments on my previous post brought this to mind. So, here are the relevant paragraphs. We pick up in medias res, in India ...

They'd seen and tasted pan in the states, actually. When Clive and Maria had first become interested in Indian food, Clive came across a magazine article describing it as a stimulant, perhaps a bit more exciting than coffee. Its legality in question, they and two friends quietly inquired of the maitre de in a New York restaurant about pan's availability. They'd pronounced it as though it had something to do with frying, but the 'a' is properly pronounced as in 'father,' the maitre de said.

"But we are not serving pan in this restaurant. You have to spit, and I don't want everyone spitting in here." He told them to seek their prize around the corner on Avenue A--which is exactly what they did.

The four of them walked in to the specified spice house and requested pan. For some reason, the turbined man behind the counter looked around suspiciously before producing a bag of betel nuts and a nasty-looking cutting tool. He shaved a bit of nut onto four palm leaves, added dabs of special creams and candies, wrapped the leaves with utmost precision, and charged them two bucks for everything.

The four then smuggled what they thought was contraband into a nearby diner and dissected the pan, unsure of what to do with it. Maria wanted no part of it. The other couple refused (one on the basis that he was driving, the other on fear it'd cause an allergic reaction in her private parts). Clive ate the nut only. It tasted like wood. Nothing happened.

The other two joked, "That Indian guy's probably sitting there laughing with his friends saying 'Those dumb Americans! I just sold them a two-by-four!' "

True story, of course; I was the one called Clive. (Dumb name, I know.) And, it DID taste like wood, and nothing happened. But, it's huge in India, I understand. I think it's kind of like a tobacco or something. Turns your saliva red, they say, if you do enough of it.

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