It was 3:00 in the afternoon and I was hungry. That horrible mid-afternoon munchy that makes you think you are starving. I headed for the fridge for my usual snack–a red pepper. Sometimes it gets a dab of peanut butter, sometimes a smear of soft cheese. Other times, just plain. A sweet red pepper is a perfect thing.
As I reached into the crisper drawer, I noticed a wrinkled pepper, older, slowing exhaling its crunchy texture in exchange for wrinkles shooting across its skin.
Automatically, I reach for it. Training from long ago. We were not allowed to eat the fresh, new fruit. No, we were to eat the older, mushy fruit or vegetable first. That way, nothing went to waste. Waste, of course, was an epic transgression of the laws of nature. I know, I know, but you didn’t know my parents and how close they had lived to starvation for years.
The result? We never ate anything fresh. We constantly foraged for the spotted, the almost inedible, and saved it from the trash by eating it.
I hesitated, my hand over the older pepper. I knew it would not be crunchy, and the bright red taste had faded to a tougher skin and limp texture. And then it struck me: there are omelets, soups, garnishes, juices that could benefit from the older pepper. But the firm one, the one glowing in the corner is meant to be eaten now. Not broken down by cooking, but celebrated for its perfection of temperature, color, and happiness.
So, with my Mother tsk-tsking in my memory, I pulled out the fresh pepper and enjoyed every fresh, juicy, refreshing bite. Life. Enjoy it while it’s fresh.
––Quinn McDonald sees big lessons in small places.