It seems the older I get, the more those old sayings we all grew up with come back to fulfill their true meaning to me. For example, remember being told: "Don't judge a book by its cover?" That one keeps showing up more and more in my life as we try to navigate these turbulent times we're living in where prejudices feel as if they are running ram pent towards anyone who looks different, dresses differently, or worships differently. Growing up in New York City and going to a racially and ethnically diverse school, I could never understand people in other areas who carried their prejudices to the extreme. What I came to understand and accept from the time I was a child was that, underneath the different modes of dress, the different accents, or the different religious traditions, were some really neat people, people I could learn a lot from, and who could learn a lot from me. We fed each other.
A few weeks ago, I was at my beloved farmers market picking through the produce. I noticed some folks who definitely were from out of town, perhaps on vacation. They were commenting on how the produce "looked different" from what they were used to buying where they shopped. Mostly, they were appalled at the blemishes and bruises on some of the produce. "How can they put stuff like that out there to sell? Who would buy something that looks like that?" they complained. Well, as it turns out, I would. The farmers I buy my produce from are all committed to clean, green, organic growing practices. Sure, without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, you don't get those picture-perfect tomatoes, all shiny and round, that you see in the grocery store that come from factory farms. What you do get, when you cut it open and look inside, is juicy, meaty, and most of all, tasty, not to mention safe to eat. So after the complaining out-of-towners moved on, I picked up some of those bruised and maligned tomatoes and took them home. Once I had cleaned them and cut them up, they went into a pot with some olive oil, fresh basil from my table-top garden, plus a few other goodies, and ... volia'! I had the most delicious, luscious spaghetti sauce that all the "chemically perfect" tomatoes could not possibly have produced!
It's not what's on the outside that counts. With people, just like with produce, it's what's inside that feeds the body and soul. Bon Appetit!
And so it is.