Love is like a salad


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Category: Reflections Date: 18 Feb 01

By this time, you have the aftertaste of February 14 in your mouth - sweet, bitter, bland, heavy, a memory of what you could have had, or never had because it wasnít to be, or had and lost.


It was the salad I was tossing on the eve of Valentineís that made me do it. I hadnít intended to write about love at all.


Itís true that the mish-mash of freshly-washed vegetables, glistening with shimmering dewdrop freshness on the red and green peppers and bright orange tomatoes, made me think of wide open spaces they were grown in, of the red and brown earth from which the carrots and beets were wrenched, roots alive and muddy. And that my musings (knife brandished mid-air, mid-flow of chopping) didnít stop at vegetable patches, but flew over green and gold hills and valleys to flaming Immortelle trees, to bamboos rustling and shifting to play with icicle-shaped sunlight, and across the sun-warmed sea to strawberry patches and fields of entwined grapevines which will make sweet piquant and dry wines perfect for rustic meals of freshly-baked bread and buttery cheese.


Sweet Nostalgia


You know what they say about love - one thing leads to another. A sumptuous salad it was, too, with olives, purple cabbage, mushrooms, finely-chopped patchoi, tomatoes, sunflower and watermelon seeds, pimentos, carrots, parsley, cucumbers, five fingers cut in slivers like ascending stars, goatís cheese, pickled artichokes seasoned with black pepper, olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt, and a red, winy vinegar.


I am reminded in the olives, the colour of eyes of a loved face; in the bitter cucumber, a friend I loved and lost to misunderstandings and human errors; in the baby carrots of my children; in the mushrooms, the touch of my motherís cheeks; in the roots of the radishes, the tap roots of my fatherís love; in the playful berries, my brother and sister; in the bright oranges and red tomatoes, the friends I love; in the nectarines and wild raspberries of my floating imagination, my friends in winter climes. 


Thatís it, I thought, love is like a salad. Itís a plethora of colours, textures, and tastes. You can bite into voluptuous and tangy love, sour and bitter love, crisp teenage and soft mother love; you can taste a poison mushroom or slice into the heart of a perfectly shaped fruit wriggling with worms.


Now where did death get in there? It was there all along, of course. Out of death and rot comes life and into life goes death.


The worms made me think of my grandmother, not long dead, who had a talent for stories and living, both of which she did vigorously.


You may think I am veering from the point a bit, but in this salad of mine, which invokes many landscapes of field, fruit and flowers in fields, makes me think of the love stories my grandmother told me, bringing on yearning nostalgia - the kind you get at yellowing black-and-white photographs of dead, glamourous people from an old world in filigree silver frames.


As I crushed the garlic in salt and added olive oil, I thought of one of them - the story about my grand uncle who loved his wife so much that when she died, he refused to open the door to anyone for 36 hours.


When the door was forced open, he was sitting there, calmly trying to feed her some bruised and wilted fruit. They finally wrenched him from her so they could take her away, but he refused to let her go. All civic rules had to be broken so she could be buried in her rose garden at home.


Essential Ingredient


He sat near her among the dying petals all day and ate all his meals by her grave; talked to her as if she was alive, and was found dead one sunny morning when the roses were in bloom, his face on her grave, looking happily asleep.


The worms, too, mingle with syrupy fruit and crispy vegetables, even if weíd rather not see them.


Pouring the dressing over the salad made me think the one essential ingredient in all kinds of love is courage - to risk pain and rejection to tell someone you love them; to go on when theyíre gone; to risk being unpopular with child or friend by encouraging them to do the right thing.


The chopping, mixing, tossing and tasting made me think, too, that nothing is isolated, everything in life is mixed-up, even death, as is all forms of love, passion with purity and that you have to get a lot of practice, loving many people in many different ways, friend, children, newspaper lady, mother, lover, husband, father, sister, brother, to get it right.


Bon Appetit.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur