Today I take off on a flight of fancy.
Spam, you know, is more than just unwanted email.
At one time, and still – and forevermore, it was and is Mystery Meat, arriving as a gift in a blue tin package.
And so it was on the same radio show where Martha Stewart talked about pomegranates that she also explained a great way to prepare Spam.
Martha Stewart was, as you may or may not know, raised in a family of six children.
So, she said, she knows a lot about Spam.
First, she suggested, find some really, really good butter. Slice the Spam thinly and fry in that butter (kashrut laws not considered here) and then serve on very good crusty country bread.
“It’s delicious”, she offered.
Then, when asked about pomegranates – how to de-seed them – she explained something complicated involving cutting and piercing and whatnot.
Truth is, I didn’t really pay much attention to that part because for me, pomegranates have always seemed so remote…and now they are such a thing…a health food, a trendy thing, that for me I avoid them because I am, above all – stubborn, stubborn.
And secretly, I admit that I was afraid of pomegranates in the same way I am afraid of vespa scooters. They are exciting and scary. They look really cool and fun and secretly I would like to try but it has all seemed beyond me and – too much trouble.
But alas, this week I got inspired (and yes, a bit excited) when I heard of a cookie that I could make with dates and pomegranate seeds and almonds. Pomegranate, after all, is a symbol of New Year. Because – of the purported number of seeds – between 200 and 1400. It is thought that the average number of seeds is 613 – the same number of commandments which God gave at Mount Sinai – and that each teeny sweet seed represents a blessing for the New Year. Which…even in my limited math skills (I cannot do trigonometry) seems like a heckofalot of blessings.
So I am looking at the cookie recipe and I am thinking to myself: where am I going to get a pomegranate now that I am actually excited for a new adventure of a new year cookie recipe? I ventured out! The first practical (ahem!) grocery store I entered displayed them just inside the front door.
A sign that they were just for me! Not even knowing how to choose them I bought two.
Just like that.
I thought to myself – now what??
They sat on my counter for four days until I was ready to begin the cookies.
Now I don’t know if you do this – but before I juice a lemon, I roll it on the counter – back and forth, back and forth, using a small amount of pressure in the very same way that you rock your children when they are small (back and forth, but not on the counter, no…) and the way that you sometimes find yourself in the grocery line still doing the swaying thing so as to calm yourself, back and forth….
But ah, I digress.
Well, I was standing in the kitchen talking to my husband and I looked down at my hands and noticed that absentmindedly I was rolling the pomegranate on the counter beneath my palm. Oh no, I thought. What have I done? Have I squashed the thing? In the same way that you can feel bubbles in dough or clay or muscles that are tense on one’s back, I felt the flesh of the fruit loosen and then, acting completely on faith, I sliced open that fruit.
I turned half of the fruit over and seeds literally just fell into the bowl. Then, I flipped the skin inside out and the remaining seeds fell out. What, I ask, was so terribly difficult about that? I can’t possibly be the only person who knows this, can I? Somebody please tell Martha Stewart…and also that guy who is selling the five-dollar thingamajig which is a gadget to remove seeds that they are actually selling in the produce department.
Now that is Crazy.
If that mysterious and magical pomegranate, replete with seeds and blessings could release all of its gifts with tender rolling embrace then what promise there is for the world!!!
(this is where I could write that if we embraced and rocked the world then it would release blessings but that would be a ridiculous thing to write so I am not going to write that.)
But you know – those seeds are not just pure sweetness. They have a narrow fruit sweet layer surrounding hard stone. You might also say that the seed is not all hard stone because it is surrounded by something sweet.
But isn’t that like our lives?
Even the good has something difficult and the difficult has a wee bit of good. Again, the paradox.
The same can of whoknowswhatkindofmeat to be found at truck stops and gas stations can be sliced thing and with a bit of expensive butter can be enjoyed, enjoyed on country bread. A seed, you see, from a prized pomegranate, like a blessing, can be released by a complicated maneuver or simply — by softening.
Could it be that all the times in my life when I did stuff the hard way I could have just embraced and rolled gently and the problem would release under my hands?
Could it also be possible that all the times I was left with ‘spam’ because that was all that I could manage I could have made it a luxury with only some imagination and crusty bread?
And how very interesting because as foods go, I could easily think of pomegranates and Spam as opposites.
Just plain opposites in so many ways.
It’s the old game of the prince and the pauper: the king and the peasant. But then — doesn’t the king sometimes sneak out of the palace to be among the people – just to have a bit of country bread with good butter?
The wise and blessed pomegranate, after all, round to represent time and life cycle and perspective and wisdom – was thought to be very complicated.
She sneaks out of her palace…she goes out into the country one day. Perhaps she is misunderstood by her people. Some think her difficult and remote.
But you know, she longs to know her people. She is out one afternoon to walk in the town – hooded – so as not to reveal her late-summer rosy beauty. In the darkening dusk she peers into the windows of the houses of her townspeople.
They are, in fact, dining on simple bread and butter. But, as all these stories go, they are happy. Their houses are warm and there is laughter.
How she yearns for the laughter. How she wants to share her blessings!
And somehow, without the use of a five-dollar gadget from the produce department she can do just that.
She approaches one of the doors. She knocks. A woman bids her to enter. She can see only a hint of the scarlet pomegranate under the hood.
For a moment she pauses…afraid and intimidated by the pomegranate’s presence. But then she thinks…of all the doors in all the towns, the great pomegranate came to my door.
Of all the days in my life this was the day that she arrived. No, I will not send her away because I am afraid, After all, it is not every day that such a one comes here.
She draws in her breath. She is afraid of the richness but draws open the door – anyway.
The guest enters. It is warm by the fire, her hostess says. Would you like a seat? This guest has a reputation for being difficult so the hostess is unsure.
But yes, the pomegranate pulls back her hood to reveal her splendor, her rising, ripening crown. Thank you, she says. I would love to sit for a few minutes. And so she sits.
And so they talk.
The woman learns that a bit of conversation can warm this guest. As the minutes wear on, the pomegranate relaxes. She softens. Already the woman begins to feel the glow and the wisdom in her simple life and is beginning to understand that they are, the two of them, in fact….not all that different.
The hour now is late.
The pomegranate has enjoyed the company of she from whom she thought quite remote. And now, softened, rolled and lulled and rocked by conversation and fire she rises to leave. She stretches herself and, amazingly, rains blessings over the woman. Seeds hard and sweet, sweet stones…everywhere. Seeds of possibility – hard and sweet. That is how they arrive.
Rocks with honey and honey with rocks.
As it is in our lives…blessings are honey with rocks…and rocks with honey.
The most gifted child, you may know…has life a bit more difficult and is isolated – no one understands them.
– Sometimes blessings don’t always feel like blessings.
There is this word in Hebrew, ‘Rimon’, which translates to Pomegranate. Interestingly, it also translates to….hand grenade. Of course it is in English as well….pome-granate…grain, grenadine, grenade. The dangers, perhaps, of prosperity?
And yet, there is another story: a true story of a man named Billy Ray. Here is a man without a home, panhandling on the streets of Kansas City. One day a woman puts a few coins in the cup he offers.
A few coins – and accidentally, her diamond engagement ring. And after three days…she came back to to him to ask if he has the ring.
He gave it to her.
The woman and her intended, this couple, was so touched that they started an online donation fund hoping to raise one thousand dollars over three months for Billy Ray – to show their appreciation.
But when the 90 days had ended, 8351 strangers had donated a total of more than $190,000 from all over the world – for Billy Ray.
Billy Ray explained that he was raised, from the time he was a little boy, by a minister – and that at that time he learned that integrity is – just part of a person.
Blessings from a stone.
As of the time of this writing, Billy Ray had bought himself a car, put a down payment on a home and has reconnected with his family.
You know, sometimes interaction between two so different can soften us – and possibly – anywhere between 200 and 1400 blessings (according to the experts) can fall upon us.
Like late-season butterflies or apple blossoms tossed about in storm…now petals on the pavement.
They remind us about pomegranates and Spam…the complicated and the simple.
They are, after all, the best of friends.