Many years ago my mother-in-law, Vira, was invited to a kitchen shower for the daughter of a friend. Vira was a creative woman--she went to the grocery store and bought a variety of spices for the bride-to-be. Then she asked me to write a little poem to go with the gift.
I was flattered to be asked, but--! I was no poet. My ability to write in rhyme was along the lines of "The cat and the rat sat on the mat." I had to decline the invitation to write a poem.
Then Vira said she had come up with a couple of lines--what did I think of this?
"Of all the seasons of the year,
you'll find the most important here."
I thought it was just right, and I told her so.
That little rhyme has stayed with me lo, these many years, and not just because seasoning is important to good cooking. Seasoning, I've come to believe, is what makes life itself worth living.
If we do a little virtual time travel, we can see how the years and events have seasoned us.
Childhood--if we were fortunate, we had good homes, enough to eat, clothes to keep us warm in winter, and plenty of love. We learned lessons at home, at school, and in the neighborhoods we lived in. Who we would become had its start in these early years.
If we weren't so blessed, what we did experience helped make up our adult self.
Adolescence--teen years are often fraught times. Adults say it's all about hormones. The teens themselves say life is unfair, or nobody understands, or even, why bother? But with guidance and love (always love), teens begin to metamorphose into the adult self. Without the love and caring, though, the process may take longer.
The sufferings of adolescence determine how we see ourselves and others, how we solve problems (or not), how we get through difficult or traumatic times. Lots of seasoning going on in this period.
Early adulthood--many of my generation married shortly after high school, or four years later, after finishing college. If they started their families right away, they soon learned a lot of life lessons--priorities being a biggie.
As the children grew up and left home, parents found themselves again--all grown up, with a life still ahead of them. A career, perhaps; community involvement; or eventually caregiving to older adults.
What makes me think about the seasoning that life provides is my refusal to say that I'm aging. (The A word is definitely on my list of no-nos.) And let me say right here--I'm not pretending that I'm not getting older--moment by moment, actually--no, not pretending that. And I definitely don't want to remain young forever. (This is reinforced every time I hear a bunch of little kids running, hollering, and having a grand old time. My energy levels don't match up! And as we seasoned folk are fond of saying, "There's a reason God gave children to young parents.")
But I like knowing that all the experiences I've had, from childhood on up to yesterday's shopping trip, have in some way altered me--have given me a different perspective--have explained something I never understood before. In short, my experiences have seasoned me.
When I cook, I seldom use salt, but I do use pepper. If I'm making a recipe that calls for unusual spices--curry powder, cardamom, white pepper, cumin, savory--I welcome a chance to try something new, or that give a little zing to a favorite dish. Fresh herbs often give a lift to a plain lettuce salad. Seasoning keeps meals from drifting into the area of hum-drum.
As most cooks will tells you, a little goes a long way. Season with caution, until you decide you like it.
We can't always distribute our life experiences cautiously. We take what we get, when we get it.
But we do have the choice of how we react--do we rebel? Reject? Can we "find the good," as Heather Lende says? Can we even embrace the experience, and the life lesson, and come out with more than we expected?
Many choices, with seasoning. Savor yours.