Organic 'stench'

My wife’s new heroes are the ladies of various kitchen garden associations who go around collecting wet garbage from disposal centres, defying the very logic for which they were created. Thursday morning, as I drove to the airport, an overpowering whiff of pineapples emanated from the car, forcing me to throw open the windows. The chauffeur explained that the offensive smell came from a carton of pineapple peels my wife had insisted a roadside vendor give her instead of throwing away, to be turned into compost. Left to rot overnight in the boot, it was merely an example of our new normal and cost me a shampooing trip for the car to the service station.  

According to the dictionary, compost is a verb and means “a mixture of dead plants, old food etc that is added to soil to help plants grow”. It consists of “decayed organic matter”, or “vegetable waste”, and is apparently rich in nutrients. What no one tells you is that it also has an odour ripe enough to make you throw up, looks exactly like it smells, and the task of composting isn’t for the faint of heart. My wife, luckily for her, has a stout heart and a stouter will. The rest of us aren’t as fortunate, which is why composting has become the new battleground at home.   

A war of words erupts because vegetable peels and shavings are collected — gutted apple cores, seeds, peels and other waste — and stored in recyclable bags. The kitchen staff protest about the extra work; the cleaning lady won’t touch rotting waste; the maali refuses to cart sacks full of the stuff up and down the stairs; the neighbours won’t allow it to stand in front of the gate for even a moment. Collected at home, the intended destination for the refuse is the farm. My wife’s intention of ferrying it every other day sometimes stretches to a week, or longer, during which the stench grows stronger, particularly when it rains and sack loads of waste have been left to putrefy on the roof in the downpour or under the sun. 

The roof reeks, the area under the kitchen sink smells, there’s a pong in the car that causes the children to complain (I’m too well trained to raise any objections any more). “Shush,” their mother admonishes them, “I’ve cleaned your backsides when you were young.” “I cleaned their backsides too,” I can’t help butt in even though I know it’s the wrong thing to say. “You think I enjoy this?” my wife puts on her martyr’s mask. “I toil for all of you, I farm in the sun, I compost so you can eat organically grown vegetables…” “Yeah, well,” says my son, “you can simply buy organic fertiliser, mom.” 

This is the sequence of events that unfolds thereafter: (a) my wife bursts into tears; (b) my son looks on hopelessly; (c) my wife tells the cook to throw out the wet garbage; (d) he refuses; (e) my daughter gives her brother a dirty look; (f) my daughter-in-law gives her husband a dirty look; (g) my son volunteers the use of his car for ferrying decaying, dead and other organic material from home to farm no matter the stink. For a while, there is peace at home.



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