Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Vibrant and diverse sidewalk spit
From the NY Times:
At a dollar each, paan has become a popular after-dinner treat in Jackson Heights. It is made by folding dried fruits, nuts and pastes into a betel leaf, a member of the pepper family. Some people like a sweet type of paan with candy-coated fennel seeds and rose petal preserves, chomping on it to freshen their breath or swallowing it to help digestion. Others go for paan with cured tobacco, despite warnings about blackened gums and oral cancer.
Whatever the mix, paan loses its flavor in a matter of minutes — leading to a messy end. To the chagrin of Jackson Heights shopkeepers, some passers-by spit half-chewed betel leaves and saliva onto the sidewalks, just as they did in their native countries.
Once paan spittle hits the sidewalk, the city does not come to wash it away. Kathy Dawkins, a spokeswoman for the Sanitation Department, said it did not remove stains, paan or otherwise, from sidewalks. But she promised that the city would “pay closer attention” to the issue.
The stains regularly set off debates in Jackson Heights, which attracts visitors from a mix of paan-chewing countries like Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Many are quick to lay the blame for the ubiquitous blemishes on any nationality but their own. Older immigrants privately scold newcomers for clinging to the bad habits of their homeland.