I made Long-Life Noodles for dinner last night. The lanky noodles represent a long life, according to the 2007 Eating Well magazine where I got the recipe. Gunpowder green tea, which looks like beach pebbles, heats with garlic and ginger. All of those aromatic antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients add to the likelihood of a healthy, happy old age.
The recipe also includes bell peppers This summer has been ideal for growing peppers, and my one little plant has produced six large ones.
I didn’t know, however, that not all green bell peppers naturally ripen to red-then-orange-then-yellow. Mine apparently stops at red, and I picked the two I used last night just in time; their shiny skin was about to give way to squish.
I never used to like bell peppers, found them bitter with a clinging texture. About ten years ago, however, I rescued a wilting pepper plant from the compost pile at the food bank gardens where I volunteered. I gave it a home in the planter outside our apartment door where it eventually started to grow two peppers.
One night, I stepped out to check on them. Call it mother’s instinct — two slugs, one on each pepper, steadily chomped through the thick round shoulder of the baby vegetables, the shapely part that cascades away from the stem.
Without hesitating to gross out, I flicked each slug into the moist blackness of the courtyard, clipped the two bell peppers, washed them furiously, set them on the kitchen counter, and huffed off to bed.
In the morning, after cutting away the slug munch, I had enough diced green bell pepper to sprinkle two tablespoons over our breakfast scramble.
The perky green cheered me and gave me a feeling of possibility, and I’ve loved bell peppers–fresh, in-season bell peppers–ever since. These diced gems felt crisp and juicy and had just enough edge of bitter (like a good cup of coffee) to balance the sweet.
I felt proud of last night’s bell peppers as well, grateful to the plant for pushing its way through the tomato’s tentacles sloppily flopping everywhere but the cage I gave it to climb.
Growing food and living a plant-based life gives me not only feelings of pride, gratitude, and satisfaction, but something else, something harder to identify. Comfort, I guess.
It’s reassuring. Like maybe when it comes to bigger things, not just an ingredient for dinner but Big Life Things, what we need will appear just when we need it, not from some distant place difficult to reach but from right under our noses.
Maybe it’s also about following our noses, saying “yes” to what’s right in front of us and then making the best of it. It’s how Julia Child met Paul, one of the greatest romances and friendships of all time. According to Karen Karbo’s book, Julia had not really been outside of the US and “was desperate to go somewhere, anywhere.” She said “yes” to the first opportunity to come her way: India. Ultimately, this is how she met Paul, how she ended up in France, and how she found her life’s passion at nearly 40 years old.
I have a quieter disposition than Julia, to put it mildly, but I admire her zeal and intend to put as much gusto into my projects as she put into hers. I don’t plan to travel far from my backyard, but I’m eager to see where this path takes me nevertheless.