To start this story I need to give you a little background on what life was like in Mojacar in the early 80’s. Food was bought every day from the market. Maria, the lady that sold fruit and vegetables, was illiterate and couldn’t count so she had three rocks one worth five pesetas one 25 pesetas and the third 50 pesetas so anything you bought had to weigh the same as her rocks. If you wanted two bananas she would give you seven for the same price because two bananas didn’t weigh the same as her rock. Everything worked on the honor system and most people paid when their crops came in. For example if you went to a bar you could just keep eating and drinking and when you finished the bar-keep would ask what you had had and charge accordingly: it was up to you. The accounting system for charges was for each family to have a jar and when you made a purchase a certain number of garbanzo beans were placed in your jar. When you came to pay they would count the beans and you would pay so much. On day in the shop at the fountain some chicken got loose and knocked over some jars and ate the garbanzos but no one panicked, the shop-keep just asked how much you thought you owed and you paid that much. Everyone was happy.
Every morning before nursery school I would take Ami to the shop to buy her snacks but we had to choose carefully because she was hyperactive and affected by food. We didn’t know if it was the coloring or the Es or sugar so we tried to go for the most natural foods. In the end it turned out that it was preservative in meats like salami and hot dogs that affected her not colorings. The lady in the shop was very curious because she had never heard of food causing hyperactivity. One day when I went to the shop the lady told me I had a bill of six thousand pesetas. When I asked for what, having never charged before she told me that Amber had brought her whole nursery school class to the shop and let them buy what they wanted and then she said to put it on my tab. I was furious and amused. How could this lady let Amber buy sweets when she saw every morning how hard it was to find something Amber could eat and, secondly, how could she open an account for a three year old with out even talking to me? Also where was the teacher, that the whole class could take an excursion to the shop? It was actually very safe for the children to wander in those days because on every corner was an abuela or tita or chacha who were always looking out for everyone.
Nowadays many children have food allergies or sensitivities but in those days it was not so well known. Amber would get so hyper that her breathing would accelerate and her pupils dilate and she was speeding around so fast she couldn’t concentrate but the worst part of it was the withdrawal. When the effect of the preservatives wore of she would sink into a deep depression. Since I had always worked with children with these kinds of problems I at least knew how to start eliminating foods to find the culprit, in her case preservatives. It turned out that Daniel had the same reaction, one bite of salami would send him flying for about eight hours but he never suffered from the withdrawal.
One night when we came home, Daniel was flying around the room and the babysitter beside herself, Amber burst into tears and said is that what I’m like when I eat salami? It was a big eye-opener for her. The babysitter said she had only given Daniel one bite of chorizo because she knew he wasn’t to have any but she didn’t believe that it was true. She found out the hard way. Both the children outgrew their reaction to preservatives by the age of eleven or twelve.
By the way I also had to go around the village and cancel all of Ami’s accounts.