11 February 2013

( learning to love tomatoes late )

a creative nonfiction essay from february 2010
by jennifer hetrick

for 23 years, i can almost say that i firmly avoided letting my tongue touch the taut, sun-kissed red skin and gush-filled bite that is a tomato.

i hesitated, my taste buds recoiling when my mother held a salted half-slice of the cherry variety in her fingers only inches away from my face.

we sat at the kitchen table, with her telling me, “try it ! just try it.”

although our picky eating habits often overlapped, she had an avid fondness for tomatoes while i simply did not. once or twice, i licked the wet and soft-seeded layer of a cut piece of the quasi-fruit, the vined vegetable. but the flavor did not suit me as a child, and i felt helpless to keep my distance, never allowing one to grace my plate.

my mother’s main meal, while out to dinner, generally consisted of a cheeseburger and fries. no other toppings—no lettuce, onions, pickles, mustard, or sauces. but she would nod her head yes in asking for a sliver of tomato to take a seat between the bun and the rest of the business. no ketchup either.  i volunteered for the role of ketchup dipper when the fries needed eating.

throughout her entire life, my mother also refused to eat pizza because her first episode with it involved a mean case of trickery. in the early 1940s, before pizza had taken the u.s. fully by storm, her neighbors in spring mount, montgomery county invited her to their house for one of her favorite sweets—cherry pie. little did she know that in fact, something called “pizza” was the culprit fooling her in that initial chomp. the neighbors buzzed with laughter while her young face squirmed in pure dislike.  

me, i do eat pizza, but only if the sauce is not too heavy or reminiscent of sugar.

in the past few years, i raised tomatoes in my modest townhome garden, outlined in a c-shaped paver wall with the soil sloping down at one side to meet the blotchy grass of my backyard. i’d stretch the hose as far as i could toward each wriggling stem, spraying water to the roots from a short distance.

some days, i’d come home from work, noticing the wilting demeanor the leaves had taken on in my absence, and i knew i was a bad plant-mother. water does much for a quick reprieve though in scenes of vanity and the green.

as the seasons passed, with each new summer greeting the market pack of nine tomatoes i’d bring home, and the stalks reaching skyward almost as tall as me, i began to envy the idea of what it must began to envy the idea of what it must like to enjoy such an aesthetic, ripe vegetable. they looked as if they’d taste nothing short of phenomenal. with caution, i licked yet another slice of tomato again but felt nothing.

i wanted to be able to say what i’d grown was delicious. but instead, i tried to just be grateful that i was at least evolving toward admiring tomatoes somewhat from a previous perch of nadda.

at the age of 24, i tried again. it began with caprese at an italian restaurant. i dared to absorb the mingling essences of my endeared mozzarella (the words “cheese” and “no” do not occur in my voiced sentences), cuts of basil, drizzles of olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette, and slice after slice of rounded tomatoes. but this time, my taste buds whirled.

success—the flavor of something as basic as a tomato finally made sense to me. this kind of relief is practically impossible to appreciate unless you can deem yourself a picky eater from birth.

soon, it will be four years since my mother ate her last tomato. it will be four years since the earth pulled her away from us and into an imperfect powder form via a crematorium owned by ruggiero funeral home on collegeville’s main street.

i hate that they burned her. 

i feel guilty when i look into a black kitchen pot on my stove, seeing that i’ve burned the skin of tomatoes in my attempts at crafting a basil-fresh soup during the crisp and chilled days of the last season she knew before she signed into the hospital, not making her final exit on foot.

but life is about burning sometimes, and if not that, then tomatoes.

i can’t tell her that i now eat the one vegetable she loved so much while she loathed most vitamin-rich greens. nonetheless, i feel better knowing i do, with how much she craved them weekly despite the fussy nature of her palate. how ecstatic i become knowing my rarely devoured cheeseburgers will don cuts of a single tomato is something i can only hope she senses in the glee of my shifting palate, bite by new bite.

( the whimsical way of water )

by jennifer hetrick

henriette alban knows, loves, and respects the intelligence and memory capabilities possible in water. as a doctor of naturopathy, based in the city of reading, she uses natural and holistic approaches to help people steer more clear of not so amiable societal constructs and far from nutritionally valuable foods (what she calls non-food, in fact) that keep them from being happy and healthy. but she also uses her wholesome energy to encourage people away from the especially tenacious influences of  culturally conditioned mind-anchors of negativity that hold many down today.
her biography on her website summarizes it well. it reads, “an early desire to see people free from bondage in mind, body, and spirit has shaped my life. out of this grew the quest to be a beneficial presence in the world.”
and water is just one of the ways alban reaches out to others to share the positive in what she’s learned through her studies. she gratefully takes the opportunity to recognize the possibilities in water, when it comes to people, and strives to help them understand its value to human life well beyond simple hydration.
alban follows the work of a japanese scientist known as masaru emoto who writes extensively on the subject of the spirituality of water. many may look at water as something basic, plain, and simply an element of the natural environment. but alban easily advocates that water is so much more.
“we know that water is life-giving, and we are 90 percent water when we’re born, but in our later stages of life, it’s more around 70 percent,” alban says. “nevertheless, water courses through every cell and every part of our organs.”
explaining that water is full of energy and information, alban is enamored with this knowledge and what it can mean for people.
“the information that water shares with our body, whether we’re aware of it or not, is one of wholeness, sacredness, continuity, and aliveness. water is alive with energy and information,” she reiterates.
“emoto decided to look into water by freezing water collected from different sources, photographing its crystals in a 20 to 30-second window,” she elaborates. “water that is very pure and clean makes for really gorgeous crystals. some of these crystals are very beautiful. they’re usually hexagonal.”
alban mentions that the crystals themselves are a testimonial to how much energy and information for beauty and love exists in the love exists in the universe. regarding water as a substance that is contained within the human body and knowing, through emoto’s research, that it responds to vibration, love, and words says a lot more for the potential of what it can do and be in the world if positive energy is embracing it through even the phrases we voice.

 ( several of masaru emoto’s books are in the berks county library system )
details on experiments about how water reacts to positive language, negative language, and being ignored are a part of emoto's writings.
“the longevity of things that are loved, be they animate or inanimate, be they people, animals, plants, or food, is inevitably clear,” alban says.
“when we consider that we don't like someone, each other, or ourselves, and we have these nasty thoughts about us, how does that affect the water in our bodies, our clarity, and our way of being in the world ?” alban poses in question. “how does it affect the water that is meant to bathe our organs, reproduce cellularly, and carry our blood as plasma, in this case ?”

( visit masaru-emoto.net to see a variety of photographs 
of crystals and their beautiful forms in response 
to positive words and music, while hateful and unkind 
music forms no crystals but angry blurs in pictures )

her reverence for water is effortlessly something she sees strong value in sharing.
“so the thought of the idea of having water as a spiritual medium becomes powerfully clear,” alban reflects.
“there are always people who say, ‘well, i can't get over the fact that i can't stand this person who is horrible’,” she offers. “what if we didn't focus on the person and their behavior. what if in passing anyone, we would just say ‘i love you’ to the water inside of them?”
consider this, too. “think of the water in your body, and let that speak for you,” alban says about love of the self in front of a mirror. “it's like a healing—from the inside out.”
to find out more about alban’s work, visit www.henriettealban.com.