Soul Cooking: When Life Dishes Out Lemons

Sleeplessness is a bitch and it makes me bitchy. I skipped breakfast this morning and went straight for lunch, my one and only meal for the day, which made me cantankerous and distracted, restless, obstinate, and even more belligerent than yesterday. Having no particular interest in the outside world, I turned my attention and energy towards the kitchen, desperate to create something with violence. Bread-making didn’t particularly seduce me, so I opted instead for something where I could wield a knife.

I had two kilos of lemons waiting in my fruit bowl waving salaciously at me to do something wicked to them. This was my chance to reflect on the philosophy of a lemon, and the following photograph summarises it all.


A Lemon’s Journey ©FrogDiva Photography

Anyone else grow up with Dennis The Menace? At the risk of betraying my age, I did and among the many things I adore about this comic strip is the friendship between Dennis, Joey and Margaret. They became my friendship goals, and I identified most with Dennis of course, always getting myself into a pickle because of that smart and irreverent mouth. The point of bringing him up today is an old memory of the three of them always selling lemonade on the sidewalk. This is an unfulfilled childhood dream of mine, having grown up in circumstances that never allowed for that to happen. In any case, the old phrase “when life throws lemons at you, make lemonade” stuck with me and I will always associate it with the irreverent Dennis.

Yes, I’ve had a lot of lemons thrown at me recently, and I have the (emotional and psychological) bruises to show for it. What have learned from it? To stand up, turn around, catch the damn lemon in mid-air and throw it back. Well, at least some of them. It’s about putting a stop to being a victim and learning to turn the situation around. So yes, I said f#$k you to the lemon throwers in my life and bloody well moved on.

Lemonade? No honey, I’m too angry to settle for something so shallow and simple these days. I harbour a deep need to take a lemon in one hand and a knife in another in order to catalyse change, create something more substantial and complex. Considering my current mood and disposition I probably should have made Indian lemon pickle, which is sassy, hot and spicy laced with rude complexity to shock everyone with the first bite. Instead, I chose something with zen-like elegance: lemon marmalade. I love the bitterness that comes with lemon rind, and the tartness… well, let’s not go there. In short, I took my time and great pleasure in slicing the two kilos of lemons and prepping them for the marmalade. It was controlled violence that justified my mood. This level of self-control is harder to deal with than simply turning to a punching bag. Truth be told, however, I sure miss my kickboxing coach…

The fruits this summer are not as sweet or tasty as previous years, so my summer plans for making assorted jams have gone completely awry. Marmalades it is… The sour lemons, however, are right up my alley and served my purpose 150% today. Standing over the pot and stirring the concoction was calming and I had to smile at how therapeutic making jams and marmalades has become to me. It’s a process that demands presence of mind, serenity and mindfulness unless you want to end up with burnt sticky mess. As always, I went a little postal and experimental with the recipe, so today’s batch includes ginger, cinnamon and rum, hence the dark colour.

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