Simple Transformations - Tomato, Corn, and Avocado Salsa

In one of the episodes of short Sesame Street videos titled Food for Thought, Elmo looks at a fuzzy round thing lying on a table outside Hooper's Store and wonders what it is. A group of Super Foods, "foods, who are also heroes" comes to enlighten him. "It's a kiwi!" says a Banana. They encourage Elmo to try it. "You want Elmo to try this kiwi?" Elmo asks plaintively. "But it's so fuzzy!" The yellow Cheese Wedge laughs and her red cape shivers a little. "That's only the outside peel. Inside, the kiwi is a juicy and delicious fruit!" One wave of her cape and the fuzzy kiwi transforms into wonderful green slices of one of my favorite fruits. In the background, Grover exclaims with a mixture of awe and envy, "They have got some serious superpowers!"

I agree with Grover. It takes serious superpowers to transform something so completely, render it inside out, succulent and sweet instead of hard and fuzzy. This is a reality. But it is also a reality that you simply need a knife, a little skill, and some time to achieve the same transformation. Both are true - one is more likely to happen than the other. Do people transform, like foods? Can we slice through someone's nature and turn them over, discard their abrasive exterior and somehow touch the tenderness within, because I refuse to believe that they are entirely devoid of any vulnerability at all? I refuse to believe that I am only hard and fuzzy, all angles, rough edges, sandpaper-like frictional, grating. Can I, too, take a knife to this exterior (or acquire a magic cape) in order to transform? Do I wish to? Sometimes, I do. Sometimes I wish to have a happier disposition, more optimistic, less exhausted, more attached, less distant - because I remember being that way. I remember expressing love - and I still do in my own way - but that old way was different.  Sometimes I covet it.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to clean out the garage. In one of my old boxes with term papers and blue books, I found my journal dated 2006-2008. That notebook bound with faux-leather, bought in bulk from a sale at Borders, was privy to so much of me that has changed. Pages upon pages of ramblings. Two pages on the image of a flower. Another on strangers in the bus. Five pages on the idea of a story, dialogue, uncomfortable exchanges between characters, because I was holding honesty back. I was trying to hold on to things back then, things I have since let go. Several pages on planning a wedding that never happened. The sketch of a dress. Music. Food. Invitations. I felt bitterness seep into my body from the dank air around me as if by osmosis. It swelled inside me until I could feel it thrumming into the tips of my fingers. I tore up the pages and receded - shook myself away from that girl with plans and her ability to see happiness even on a mid-day bus among strangers. If I were to take that bus today, would I see the same things and think the same things, or would I roll my eyes and look away, stare at the landscape running past my vision, time flying, places, too?

So, no, it is not easy to transform people like that kiwi. There is no superhero to put a salve on old hurts. Nevertheless, people do transform at their own pace. My contrast from the girl who lived in the pages of that journal is, in itself, a transformation. It took years, but it happened. A transformation towards more honesty, the willingness to remain steadfast in what I want rather than what others want for me, and new loves - this blog, cooking, my baby, meaningful relationships, little matters, nothing more. 

And it pleases me to see this transformation, simple, yet profound, agreeable - it gives me a certain kind of peace, almost. So, that lingering sense of coveting what is lost diminishes further. It pleases me to transform things, too, particularly food. On Monday afternoons, even if I am bone-tired, I go into my kitchen and start lining up ingredients for my weekly forays into the world of Bon Appetit recipes. Rebecca arrives and starts setting up her camera equipment. She photographs ingredients whole, like each part of the Bon Appetit Tomato, Corn, and Avocado Salsa above, and then transformed, combined together for a wonderful and refreshing snack. No superpowers here, I do not possess any - just a knife and a cutting board, some skill taught me by a wonderful woman who loves me far more than I deserve, and time invested with care and concentration. Does this transformation please me, too? Well, the pictures speak for themselves.

Photos by Rebecca McCue