Jane arrived at Tarzan’s favorite spot, hidden amongst a grove of jackfruit trees. The small pond was a soothing oasis, dotted with verdant lily pads and bright fuchsia ferns, glistening in the mist. She looked around, trying to appear more casual than she felt, and spotted a scrap of hide spearing the prickly skin of one of the green, low-hanging fruits. The sweet, fleshy jackfruit was one of the first jungle delicacies Tarzan had introduced to Jane. At its most ripe, she loved that it tasted like a cross between a banana and a pineapple, its chewy pods sweet and succulent. A closer glance revealed Tarzan’s careful scrawl painting the hide, an introductory note to their very first date.
My darling Jane,
Tonight, I show you my home. Be prepared to immerse yourself in an evening of my beloved jungle’s most beloved flavors. As you leave your civilization behind, I hope you will see what I see, and love it as I do.
To the first of many adventures,
PS. Grab the vine in front of you. Hold on tight.
Jane did as she was told, bracing herself as a scampering of footsteps erupted into a firm push against her back, propelling her into the air as she let loose a terrified scream. Jane soared, weightless, through the treetops for what seemed like forever, clutching the vine for dear life and frantically wondering what she had gotten herself into, until the firm grasp of Tarzan’s arms secured themselves around her waist, pulling her from the air and grounding her in a tree house that seemed to come out of nowhere. As she looked around, she saw that it was no ordinary tree house. Its fully stocked kitchen was illuminated with small, flickering torches and overgrown with flowering, fragrant orchids and bougainvillea. In front of her lay an unbelievable spread: mung beans, ginger root, pummello, heaps of every citrus imaginable, nutmeg, piles of palm shoots, green squash, allspice berries, fileted snake meat, cashews, sesame, chocolate, a jar of insects (insects?!) Wasn’t this a date? Shouldn’t Tarzan be taking her to dinner? Surely insects couldn’t be factoring into the equation.
Tarzan squeezed the juice of a bright, purple fruit atop coconut water in its shell, refreshed the cocktail with lemon, a bit of orange zest and passed it along. “Be careful,” he winked. “It’s fermented Jungle Juice…quite strong.”
“So what exactly are we doing here?” Jane asked, praying those insects were just for show.
“Tonight, you’re going to be the star of your very own jungle-inspired cooking class, led by me–your handsome, fearless chef here to push you to your culinary limits. On the menu: roasted citrus salad, topped with grated ginger and sesame seeds; grilled snake meat kabobs, with squash and Jippa Jappa palm shoots; a mung bean and tamarind bowl, topped with salt-encrusted Pirarucu fish and garnished with black pepper-spiced cashews. And of course, no romantic evening could be complete without dessert–so get ready to create your own coconut cocoa ice cream, infused with cinnamon and crushed allspice berries, and topped with coconut palm sugar. Finished with Amazon-press coffee, made with fresh spring water. And maybe another coconut or two of Jungle Juice.”
“…And the insects?”
Tarzan grinned and picked up a small round, berry-like fruit, bit off the end and motioned for Jane to open her mouth. “Pokenoboy,” Tarzan said, as he squeezed the sweet and sour juice straight into her mouth. “We’re going to start with an amuse bouche of crocodile carpaccio, topped with charred insect wings. You’ll love it.”
She took another sip of her Jungle Juice, its potency taking effect, warming her underneath the jungle’s glowy haze. “Civilization. So overrated,” Jane thought. As Tarzan stood behind her, taking his hands in hers to begin guiding her through their first course, suddenly the idea of deconstructing insects didn’t seem so bad after all.