OK – this blog is going to sound a little self-helpy. But everyone can use a dash of it now and again – and I promise it pertains to food, too. So bear with me.
The basic premise is this – sometimes we let perceptions dictate our lives. And as a result we can lose out on things.
I’ve ended more than one relationship when I realize – often a little later than would be good for me – that I was allowing myself to be molded by significant others into an idealized perception. Typically, this shows up when I mention something that crosses my partner’s comfort threshold. It could be musing about a day hike of the Appalachian Trail, whitewater rafting, or trying a new restaurant that’s a 45 minute drive.
Friends who get me will answer, “What makes you want to do that?”
It’s over when I hear: “You wouldn’t like/do that.”
What’s the difference? One is curious response about what makes me tick. The other has put me in a box with a label.
And I do not like labels, unless they include words like kind, adventurous …
As a woman who has been on a self-reflective journey for the past dozen years – more than half of them sober – I know to pause and wonder why someone is starting a statement that starts with “You.” For one, it puts people on the defensive, immediately.
There’s a whole psychology behind You Statements vs I Statements. The crux is don’t push your own feelings off on someone else. Own them. It’s one thing to say, “I” wouldn’t like to spend a day hiking – OK, I can empathize with that. But please don’t tell me I don’t want to. Because I do. And I spent 20 years in a relationship where someone kept telling me what I did and didn’t like – to the point where I believed it. And that didn’t work out so well for me.
My parents, who have witnessed me hauling my sorry butt up from the depths of various misadventures, might have the authority to invoke a You Statement now and again. But they’ve also witnessed me hauling that same sorry tail through recovery and up a few mountains, across a few oceans, and wading through single parenting (one of the biggest adventures in life). So they like to start with, “I would like it if you would consider …” before I go ziplining off the Eiffel Tower (which I did not do because this would not be a good example for my 14-year-old).
My parents have also been along for quite a few of my culinary calamities, including the all-garlic dinner that left us reeking for days. Literally, we were emitting garlic from our every pore for three days.
They’ve also watched my journey into to my 50s, and how it has been about managing perceptions and taking control of what I can. My parents want happy, healthy children (4) and grandchildren (8). All of us have different criteria for happy and healthy. Mine comes with a big dog, long walks, travel, gardening, and experimenting in the kitchen. It may not come with a husband, a job with benefits and regular hours, or a size 4 wardrobe.
So what does this have to do with food? Letting perceptions limit your experiences has a lot to do with just about everything in life, including melons.
The honeydew has been among my least favorite melons. It’s green. It’s often just a filler in fruit salad – frequently the least flavorful of the ingredients. When I was growing up, it was diet food, filled with cottage cheese. In short, it was not on my Wegmans list.
Then I discovered a recipe for a cucumber and honeydew salad on Pinterest. Cubed honeydew is tossed with peeled, seeded, cubed cucumber and sliced red onion, mint, basil, and dill. It is dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and (optional) honey and/or mustard. Suddenly this melon has moved from breakfast filler to salad star. It’s great with just about any summer dish, but pairs well with any grilled meat. It holds up well in the fridge, making it super for a refreshing summer snack or quick lunch.
I’m in love with honeydew now. All because my perception changed.
The honeydew went from second-rate breakfast dish to a summer staple for salads. All because I could look at it differently – and be flexible. Sometimes it is super sweet – in that case I just squeeze some lemon juice on top and mix in some mint and basil. Sometimes I put in a grind of pepper and a pinch of salt. If it is more on the bland side, then it gets the onion and dill. Then dressing goes into a bowl – lemon, mustard, honey, salt, pepper – and whisked. Then it is tossed with the melon and cucumber, and finally finished with some extra-virgin olive oil.
The secret to picking the right melon? That’s a tough one. It’s not unlike dating – you can’t always tell from the outside. Labels don’t help either. I’ve had organic duds too. Thumping is useless. You just have to hold one, look for any soft spots, and take a whiff at the end where the stem was attached. If it smells sweet, then you have a winner.
If this worked for dating, I’d be giving seminars by now. Although an occasional thunk to see if a head is soft might not be a bad idea …
Melons are good for any just about any diet out there – paleo, Whole 30, WW, etc. Can’t say the same about boyfriends.