MANDY FLYNN: Sniffing out a good one

FEATURES COLUMN: A quick whiff and a solid thump can determine a good, ripe cantaloupe

Mandy Flynn

Mandy Flynn

She leaned in to me as though we were sharing a secret.

“So you smell them, too?” she whispered. I was taken aback, surprised at being discovered mid-sniff. Standing there in the fruits and vegetables section of the grocery store, hovering over a piled high bin while other shoppers picked through onions and counted out lemons, there was always the possibility I would get caught. It’s not the most ladylike thing a person can do, I suppose.

I sniff cantaloupes.

“Why, yes. I do,” I confessed quietly, taking the large, round cantaloupe clutched in my hand and placing it back amid the crowd of others there before me. I looked at the fellow shopper who had caught me cantaloupe-handed. She didn’t smile as she reached over and grabbed one from the pile — a big tan one with a hint of green. I watched as she turned it around to the small round spot on the end, then put the melon close to her nose. She slowly inhaled.

“This one’s no good,” she said and placed it back amongst the others, then mumbled that she supposed one would be plenty. That’s when I noticed a plump cantaloupe already in her buggy, sitting right up front like a round little baby.

Starting to feel a tad uncomfortable, I looked around to see if anyone else was witness to the cantaloupe love fest. That’s when the cantaloupe whisperer slipped away just as quietly as she had arrived. Like a cantaloupe ninja. Or a cantaloupe Yoda.

Gone too soon.

I have another confession to make. I like “The Golden Girls.” I could watch them all … day … long. It isn’t something my husband thinks I should readily admit. “What, are you 95 years old or something?” he asks when he catches me watching the Miami escapades of Dorothy, Blanche and Rose.

How are cantaloupes and “The Golden Girls” related, you may wonder. They really are … I promise.

A little ways back I caught a “Golden Girls” episode where the girls were in the supermarket discussing the right way to select a cantaloupe. Dorothy said the right way was to smell the end of the melon. Blanche, the saucy one, said you should give it a firm thump. And Rose, the farm girl, said you should pull out a pocketknife and cut a piece out of each melon and sample which one tastes best.

Since the good folks at Publix probably wouldn’t take too kindly to Rose’s suggestion, the sensible options seemed to either sniff or thump. But on this particular day I still wasn’t sure. The cantaloupe whisperer gone, I asked for someone else’s advice.

“Both are acceptable,” the fruits and vegetable fellow informed me when I interrupted his careful stacking of pineapples at the end of the aisle. He didn’t seem to mind.

“Some people tap them but I see a lot more people smell them,” he said. “If it sounds hollow when you tap it, that’s good. If it smells sweet and fragrant on the end, right where the vine was attached, that’s even better.” Then his voice took a serious tone.

Never buy a melon that still has the stem attached, he warned. The stem will fall off naturally if the cantaloupe is ripe. Any stem left means the farmer cut it off too soon. Cantaloupes aren’t bananas, he said. They won’t ripen any more once they’ve been picked.

I thanked him, then went about picking out what I deemed to be a good cantaloupe. It felt right when I thumped it. It smelled even sweeter. I put it in my buggy, right up front like a round little baby. I was happy.

The cashier commented what a good looking cantaloupe I’d found. “I smelled it,” I said proudly and I could swear the young man bagging my groceries took a step back. That’s when the cashier leaned in as though we were sharing a secret.

“I smell them, too,” she said. I desperately wanted to ask her if she’d seen that episode of “The Golden Girls,” too, but thought I’d best keep that secret to myself.

I may sniff cantaloupes, but some other things I probably shouldn’t admit. Like how awesome I think The Golden Girls are.

They really are… I promise.

Email columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.