The Right Way or Just a Better Way?

Coffee 003

I need to write about something weird that happened to me.  I am not even sure if weird is the correct word.  Regardless, I feel the need to get it out there and generate some discussion about it.  I tried talking to my students, but consensus was lacking, and I am rather curious about what you will have to say about it.


For me, the fall is a time for eating clementines.  (Spell check has underlined this with a red line–perhaps, we use a different name.  Please look at the picture above and tell me what you call them.)  This dates back to my time in Japan.  In this season, leading up to Christmas, my students always brought them for me.  Owing to the fact that I lived in a slightly rural farming area, I had bags and bags of these things around my apartment.  I had to invite people over to eat them–and eat them we did, usually 8 to 10 at a sitting.  For this reason, I usually refer to them by their Japanese name: mikans.  Since, I work with lots of people who have lived in Japan, this doesn’t seem to phase them at all.

As I said, fall is the time for eating clementines/mikans.  Fortunately, I found a box at the grocery store and bought them.  I finished the last one from that box, which I assume will be the first of many I will purchase this season.  That is where this tale begins.

The Story

I brought my clementine/mikan to class.  Although I shouldn’t eat in class, I decided to flaunt this rule in favour of vitamin C and overall deliciousness.  While my students were busy doing a task, I silently and skilfully,  peeled the fruit.  I dropped three or four slivers/segments/sections/you know what I mean into my mouth.

A student to my right said, “You can’t do that!  That’s wrong!”

I figured that she was complaining about my eating and mentally prepared to defend myself with some kind of, “I’m the teacher and I can do whatever I want” kind of speech.

Before I could erect this defence, she clarified her point–which as her teacher I was happy to hear.  As of late, I have been a real taskmaster about complete sentences and supporting what you say.

“You have to eat them one at a time.”

I was a little dumbfounded.  “What?”

She continued.  “You can’t eat three or four of them at one time.  You need to eat them one piece at a time.  That’s the right way!  Three or four is wrong!  Completely wrong!”

The Question

Is there a right way and a wrong way to eat these clementines/mikans?  Is there a right way and a wrong way to eat anything?  There may be an impolite way or rude way, even a noisy way, to eat something, but a wrong way?

Quite a few thoughts cross my mind.  I feel a bit like I am watching that episode of the Big Bang Theory when Sheldon says you have build the puzzle edges first, and if you find any pieces together, take them apart.

I remember studying how to write Japanese Kanji and being told the correct stroke order, and even if I made the same picture, if I had not followed the stroke order, all was wrong.  I get it, but a part of me says that if you hadn’t seen me write it, you might not know the difference.  Maybe I am rebelling just to rebel.

I suppose there is a right way and a wrong way, but by that same token, isn’t there also one way, and a better way?  Isn’t there also a whole bunch of ways, and a whole bunch of better or worse ways?  Should any of this apply to eating a clementine/mikan?

Polling the Students

There seems to be quite a strong belief amongst some of my students that there is one correct way.  Which seems odd, since I usually teach them that there are several ways to say the same thing in English.  You would think they would apply the same kind of “logic” to other things.

In the end, I am curious what you think.  Have I blown this out of proportion?  Of course I have.  The students started it, though.

About Anthony

I am: equal parts rebel, romantic and shockingly average Joe. a writer trapped inside of an ESL teacher's body. an introverted attention seeker. a teacher who hopes one day to be called "Captain, my Captain." an intellectual who can do some very dumb things. a person whose Japan experience, despite being so long ago, still exerts a strong influence upon him. a lover of books, music, beer, hockey and Pizza.
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5 Responses to The Right Way or Just a Better Way?

  1. I don’t’ think there is a correct way to eat them, just enjoy. Here in lower Alabama, we call them Satsuma’s.

  2. I call them Mandarins and I think you can eat them however you like! 🙂

  3. Brittany says:

    Satsuma, mandarin, clementine, they are all used to describe what you have pictured. Having multiple names goes hand in hand for having multiple eating styles!! Eat them however you please, it all goes to the same place! 🙂

  4. Rachel M says:

    I call them mandarins too but I’ve seen them referred to as clementines. Yum, I want one!

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