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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
worms made me think of my grandmother, not long dead, who had a talent for
stories and living, both of which she did vigorously.
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.
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.
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.
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
worms, too, mingle with syrupy fruit and crispy vegetables, even if weíd
rather not see them.
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.
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.