Dear Fellow Travelers,
Spices are important to good eating; any of us who have had the pleasure of an extended hospital stay know this truth. Nevertheless, they are something we routinely take for granted, forgetting there was a time when brave sailors risked their lives to bring the treasure of new spices to their own shores. Some spices are sweet, some are zesty, some hot, some may even be a bit bitter, but it is the blend of these that transforms a simple dish into something unforgettable. The tastiest food is the one that has the perfect blend of spices rendering it almost impossible to identify one individual spice from another. I’ve always admired the cooks who can taste test to see “what’s missing” in a stew or sauce. This is the reason I fell in love with food in France. In my untrained opinion, the French are masters of “the perfect blend”.
I had reason to be reminded of what makes “the perfect blend” at the beginning of April this year. My brother’s birthday is April 1st. That’s correct, April Fools’ Day or "Le Poisson d’Avril" in France; my sympathies to those of you who share this auspicious birth date. I awoke that day, as usual, to the sound of the wild alerting me to the need to chase squirrels in the backyard. After letting the dog out, I took a shower and pondered the fact that my brother was celebrating his 63rd birthday. A momentous day because this is 23 more birthdays than I had ever thought he would reach due to a medical condition that announced itself in his late 30’s. So, I began the day feeling grateful and full of happy thoughts. My day soon shifted when I discovered that my cat, Bisous, had died suddenly between the time I let the dog out and finished my shower. In that moment Joy was bombarded by Sorrow and I almost couldn’t assimilate the shift. How do we digest such a dichotomy?
In the past I’ve thought of life as a tapestry with different threads and textures forming various scenes, all necessary for the story to be complete. Not all colors in the tapestry were my favorites, but they were needed for shading and contrast to make the bright colors shine. That day, I began to see life as a meal with different courses. Some courses are savory, some are sweet. Each dish, like a day in a life, has its own unique blend of spices. This is what makes life what it is; this is what gives it flavor, just as the perfect blend of spice makes one dish exquisite as compared to another. Remove one flavor and the recipe fails.
On April 1st I was shown in a moment that life can occur as a collision of Joy & Sorrow. It was not the day I planned, but it was life. As John Lennon so famously said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” So I will relish my life with all the tastes that come together to create the perfect blend and I will savor each flavor with gratitude. Today, I wish you all manner of delightful, tasty spices to flavor your life.
And to share with you just a taste of the one of the most interesting spices in my life:
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say,
"Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.