In praise of the soybean

My dad grew edamame before it was cool. We called it by another name back then.

In the garden he claimed from a Minnesota meadow, he planted rows of soybeans, poor man’s food he remembered from his boyhood. When the plants died in the late summer, he uprooted them by the dozen and laid them in our yard. Rows and rows of tables stacked high with brittle stalks. How many were there? We pulled the sharp, hairy pods from the plants and my mom boiled them until the beans inside were bright and ready, jewels of goodness we pinched from the pods until our thumbs were sore. The mosquitoes chewed holes in our legs, and we stood on one foot so we could scratch with the other.

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When I was an adult, I went to a posh restaurant and was surprised to find edamame on the menu; the waiter grinned when I pronounced it correctly (“Very nice. Usually nobody knows what that is”), but I was raised on it in the wilds of Minnesota and when it arrived on my plate I found they hadn’t even bothered to pinch it out of the pods, but oh it was good, packed and popping with goodness, and since then I have found it at my supermarket shelled or not; an easy choice for this girl who remembers how

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The mosquitoes chewed holes in our legs, and we stood on one foot so we could scratch with the other. We pulled the sharp, hairy pods from the plants and my mom boiled them until the beans inside were bright and ready, jewels of goodness we pinched from the pods until our thumbs were sore. How many were there? Rows and rows of tables stacked high with brittle stalks. When the plants died in the late summer, he uprooted them by the dozen and laid them in our yard. In the garden he claimed from a Minnesota meadow, he planted rows of soybeans, poor man’s food he remembered from his boyhood.

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We called it by another name back then. My dad grew edamame before it was cool.

 

Forbidden fruit

I think of this story around this time of year, when our bushes hang heavy with berries.


Once upon a time

when I was a little girl,

we went to stay in the home of some friends in Virginia. When we arrived, our hosts showed us around and made us comfortable, in true Valley style. Then they warned us about the berries on the edge of the woods.

They look delicious, like blueberries, they said, but please don’t taste them. We think they are poisonous.

Very well, my parents agreed. Children, do you hear? Leave the berries by the woods alone.

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I was only five years old. What do you think happened when I found myself alone?

The next thing I remember was that I stood in the open doorway of the house, looking up a flight of unfamiliar stairs at my mother. My very displeased mother.

Shari, she said. Did you eat those berries?

I hunched my shoulders and pressed my hands against the door frame. No, mom.

Shari. Look at me. I know you ate those berries; don’t lie to me.

No, mom.

Well, I got my rear end spanked for it and afterwards, I sat on the kitchen counter sniffling and eating cookie dough while our kind hostess cheered me up. It’s the only deliberate lie I remember telling in childhood.

When I was an adult, I asked my mother How were you so sure?

She said, BECAUSE YOU HAD BLUE ALL AROUND YOUR MOUTH.

So. No use blaming the world’s sins on Eve; I am an original sinner. Ate the forbidden fruit and lied about it. Didn’t even see the snake.

I wonder what died inside me?

Two pictures that make me incredibly happy

Recently I came across two pictures on social media that filled me with joy.

They are wildly different: the first, pristine and elegant, mysterious, imaginative; the second, grainy and smudgy and hopelessly outdated. Look at this.

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Rob Gonsalves is a Canadian artist who likes playing with optical illusion and duplicate realities. Here is more of his work, but I find the painting above simply unbeatable. I could enjoy it for hours. And I think I probably have…

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The second picture is from my childhood, posted for Throwback Thursday by an old friend. It makes me super happy, partly because our dresses are so hideous and partly because we’re all so glad. I’m the squirt on the left. My brother is behind me, and I believe my cousin (who’s having a birthday party) is showing off the food in his mouth. Three family friends, all sisters, are with us.

I had an amazing childhood.

When I look at this picture I just think, “Alright. I wore knits and I survived. My kids are going to be okay too.”

*****

What brought you joy today?