The Sweetness of Now

IMG_4880Growing up,
We lived upstairs in Apartment 4A.
My Aunt lived downstairs with her family in Apartment 1A.

My Mother and her Sister talked every day
Several times a day.
When prime time television ended each night at 11pm, My Aunt would bang on the Radiator Pipe to let us know she was coming up.
My Mother would grab a wooden spoon and bang back to let her know it was OK.
I never understood the point of this, as they came every night at the same time
and it was always OK.
My Aunt and Uncle would sit with my Mother and Father,
and they would have a cup of coffee together before bedtime.

My Mother and her Sister shared all kinds of things.
Raising Children
Each innately understood that they could handle it better together than alone.
This was only part of the Magic of Growing Up in a Big Italian Family.

I remember frequent conversations that went like this:
“Grand Union has Blueberries on sale,
Nineteen Cents
If you wanna’ get up there.”
Or
“Daitch Shopwell has Eggplants
Two for a Quarter.
And they’re Big Ones too!
I picked some up for you.
I got us four each.
I figured by the time you walked all the way up there and carried them back…”

Money was not so much scarce in those days
As it was Respected.
And Right away, the one Sister would go to her change purse and reimburse the other fifty cents for the four Eggplants.

Something was happening here.
Something beyond Italian Families sharing Groceries…
Something beyond the Cost Efficiency and Daily Miracle Workings of Women who had figured out how to feed their families so abundantly on the weekly paychecks of a New York City Police Officer or a Grocery Store Butcher…
Even beyond the Magical sense of Community I grew up believing was the norm
and that advantageous example of knowing
I never need to trust solely in my own strength…

There was a sense of Plenty
An awareness of the change of Seasons.

Growing up in a Bronx Apartment Building,
I didn’t have a Vegetable Garden
But the availability of Fresh Produce celebrated week to week
Kept me finely attuned to
Nature Expressing Herself
Saying all the Time,
“I care for You!
You are Safe!
You are Loved!
Look! Look what I brought you this week!”
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You see, that which was On Special
The Biggest Bargain of the Week
Was in Bloom
Abundant, Ripe, Plentiful!
And Extraordinarily Delicious!
The Sweetness of Life.
Now!
Taste It!
Isn’t it Beautiful!

Oh, Sure!
Nowadays, they think they can fool you.
Cherries on display in the Produce Aisle at Christmastime…
Grapes and Fruit imported from Chile and Mexico Year Round…
Fruit harvested as it ripens — then frozen in warehouse storage for up to 9 months
GMO StrawBerries accessible any day of the year…
If you don’t mind that it’s Pricey
And doesn’t taste Very Good.

But Now
is the time of Local Produce!
Celebrate it like an Italian Woman in the Bronx in the 1960’s!
Enjoy its Sweetness!
Seek it Out!
Or just Open Up
Look Around
And Let it Find You!

Get thee to a Farmer’s Market!
Or Join a Local Co-op.
Discover this Week’s Most Plentiful
Naturally Ripe
Least Expensive Crop
Enjoy Big Bargains!
Relish the Fruits of the Season!
Allow Nature to Comfort You
Allow her to whisper, “You are Loved!”
Allow her to wrap her arms around you with a Great Big Reassuring Hug
that lets you know
You are a Beloved Child of the Universe
In Whom She is Well-Pleased!
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Have you had her Cherries this Season?
Golden Ranier
Or the Juicy Black Kind
They have been at the peak of Sweetness
You might have just another week to enjoy those
Their season is so precious and short
They will surely be past their Pinnacle of Fantastic-ness by week’s end.

BlueBerries have been So Delicious — Sweet, Plump, Juicy and Sensational!
You have only a little time left on those as well.
Try not to miss it.

StrawBerries too.
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And Melons of all kinds:
Watermelon
Cantaloupe
HoneyDew…

July is when Raspberries are Very Much at their Peak.
And Zucchini too!
Have you ever made Baked Stuffed Zucchini?

Stuffed Zucchini Recipe
Ever tasted Fried Zucchini Blossoms?

As these wane, and August approaches,
Comes the Promise of
Eggplant and Fresh Ripe Sweet Juicy Plums and Pluots.
Perhaps the Eggplant are no longer four for Fifty Cents,
But their Price does drop and their Delectable Flavor is Unbeatable.
Well, except perhaps for the Toothsome FlavorBurst of a Red Ripe Tomato.

IMG_4856You can already find Heirloom Tomatoes, fresh from the Vine.
Ever tried one?
Cut one up,
Drizzle on some Good Quality Olive Oil,
Add some Fresh Julienned Basil,
Good Quality Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper;
Add a few slices of fresh shaved Parmesan Cheese,
And enjoy a taste of Heaven.

I had an Uncle who had a House in Long Island
He kept a small Garden
One visit in Late August — He was into his Eighties, then —
We stood in his Garden amidst his Tall and Fertile Tomato Plants
and I questioned him about something his Sister had told me.
“MOM says that you used to walk around the Garden with a Salt Shaker in your Pocket. Is that true?”
He smiled, with a glint in his eye,
Reached in his pocket and revealed a salt shaker, glass with a metal top,
Plucked a fresh red ripe tomato off the vine;
Standing Right There in his Garden
He took a bite, savoring its Incomparable Sweetness,
Salting it as he went,
And Gave me a Great Lesson about Satisfaction in Life
Imparting the Wisdom that comes with being in one’s Eighties
and having learned what is Truly Important.

September will bring Grapes
And Potatoes, freshly harvested.
Taste the Difference.

By October, Pumpkins
And a Seemingly Endless Variety of Apples begin to cascade from Produce Stands
Try Every One you can Find!

For Christmas, Citrus…
Oranges, Lemons, Grapefruit, Clementines, Mandarins, Tangerines and Tangelos….

What is Today?
As you Read this
What is the Plentiful Crop?
What is Nature’s Sweet Gift to You?

Don’t happen to have your own Garden?
I don’t either.
Don’t have a Building Full of Relatives to knock on your door, arms full of today’s Produce Special?
Those days are gone for me, as well
But their Spirit Remains.

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Enjoy
Embrace
Delight
Live in Plenty
Tasting all the Fresh Sweetness of Nature
Welcoming Each New Season
Each Week’s Bounty
Each Day’s Sweet-Smelling Harvest from Local Farms
In the Peak of Season…

Share it!
If you find a Bargain from a Sweet and Plentiful Harvest,
Don’t be shy about buying double,
Knock on a Neighbor’s Door
And say, “I found these at the Store, and they looked So Sweet and Plentiful.
I brought you some, as a Gift!
Share the Wealth!
Make Someone’s Day!
It’s just as much Fun when it’s a Neighbor you barely know.

Savor the Sweetness of Life
The Sweetness of this Present Moment
The Sweetness of All the Gifts that Nature and the Universe hold for You this Day

The Sweetness of Now.

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3 Comments

  1. Lou Monteforte

     /  July 22, 2015

    Arnold – thanks for taking me back in time! Banging on the pipes! Never fully understood why but it worked!

    Reply
  2. Robin

     /  July 22, 2015

    Having experienced this growing up Italian in the Bronx, and now living in a rural area of Connecticut, I find myself thinking about those very same instances with my mom and her sister or mother or a neighbor. I used to call it the fruit loop, because they’d all pick up something the other either needed or could cook or bake better than anyone else. Best of all, you always got to taste the end result in the form of an impromptu lunch, pie or a dish of something that would be made almost instantly upon receipt of the “bounty”. It seemingly came back in abundance, biblical almost – as in the loaves and fishes story.
    Today, my sister kids me for carrying a dozen just-laid eggs from my farmer-neighbor, or a giant spaghetti squash or a sack of beets, peaches or green beans in my old tote bag on the bus or train into the city. She teases; “Here comes the pleasant peasant!” That’s O.K., I remind her that we just can’t get to have this much goodness or fun– or nostalgia anymore– especially when we’re paying $$ at Citarella or Dean & DeLuca for the stuff. Trust me, this isn’t some warped, wanna-be Martha Stewart thing. Just proof that for some of us, old generational habits die hard.

    Reply
  3. Gina Monteforte

     /  July 26, 2015

    Arnold, I read this and smiled and laughed and she’d a couple of tears,although as you know that isn’t hard to do. I loved the memories of living in The Bronx. But what I loved more was your bringing “Us” into your writings. It’s like we all live on a little more. But what I enjoyed most was the relationship of two sisters, I never met two other people so in sync with one another. I wish every sibling could enjoy just such a relationship.

    Reply

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