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Ziyad Brand Pickled Lemon 

International Grocery
1811 West Main Street
Carbondale, Illinois 62901

Our world shrank a little last week. Yep, astronomers demoted the Pluto formerly known as planet to the ignoble rank of "Dwarf Planet." Goodbye, Pluto. We hardly knew you.

The rocky runt of the Milky Way's litter, Pluto never got a lot of respect. In a solar system where planets are named after Roman gods — of war, of agriculture, of travel — little Pluto got saddled with the unglamorous underworld. Shrouded in darkness, Pluto spent its brief planetary life under attack. Ever since its discovery in 1931, astronomers have wanted it eighty-sixed from the planetary club, and I shudder to think how the orphaned stone suffered when the Walt Disney Company gave its name to a dog owned by a mouse. Talk about humiliating.

Apparently Pluto got the heave-ho because it was little lax on hygiene. It never cleared the celestial debris tumbling through its orbital "neighborhood," and that, declared astronomers gathered on the third rock from the sun, earns Pluto its walking papers.

It's a sour story. It makes me pucker just thinking about it. Or wait, maybe that's the Ziyad Brand Pickled Lemon I've just placed — peel, flesh, seed and all — in my mouth.

Don't get me wrong, this yellow orb has a lot in common with its banished brother. This lemon is small and round, just like Pluto. Like Pluto, a Ziyad Brand Pickled Lemon lives in a neighborhood where it's surrounded by debris — in this case peppers, safflowers and spices. And, like Pluto, this lemon — originally from Egypt but more recently of Carbondale, Illinois — has traveled great distances.

But that's where the similarities end. Astronomers have never determined all of the elements that make up Pluto's rocky matter. Having bitten into a Ziyad Brand Pickled Lemon, on the other hand, it's pretty clear to me that this lemon's matter is made up of citric acid, water and salt.

Interesting what occurs when a substance simultaneously explodes with liquid and salt. I'm chewing, but only sparingly: Each clench of the mandible unleashes a barrage of scorched-earth-strength citric acid. The tongue backs off but the cheeks involuntarily draw in, which in turn squeezes ever more juice from the lemon.

And I'm finding it impossible to swallow. (Who wants a chemical burn down the esophagus?) So I stall, waiting for the lemon to lighten up.

Eating Ziyad Brand Pickled Lemon is the sort of underworldly fate that during Greek times might have befallen a rogue astronomer who had the temerity to insult little planets. But fate doesn't rule our lives anymore, science does. Likewise, it'll be a cold day in Hades before I let this little lemon back into my galaxy.

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September 23, 2020

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