I can’t see bell peppers without thinking of my mother.
A tiny woman, fragile, loose-limbed, and notoriously accident-prone, she could find the single crack in a sidewalk over which a thousand people had stepped without falling, and lose her footing.
Despite her delicate constitution, she had a sharp mind, wicked wit, and will of steel. In all matters, she was determined, tenacious, and thoroughly unconventional, a sylph with the heart of a daredevil.
Her greatest dream was to do biological research. Her high school teachers and guidance counselors encouraged her to pursue her dream in college. But this was during the 1930’s. There was a Depression. My mother was instructed by her family to find a job, and then a husband.
I can only imagine the discoveries she would have made had she been given the support she needed. She had an unwavering in her own abilities to solve life’s greatest puzzles and mysteries, defy odds, even when life was throwing obstacles in her way.
Thus she broke through an oppressively low glass ceiling, and became a corporate Chief Financial Officer. As busy as she was, on weekends, she was in the kitchen experimenting, mixing her mother’s old world culinary practices with a desire to understand how and why they nourished the body, and satisfied the senses so completely…
…which is how I wound up roasting peppers. During one of her visits, she laughed when I tried to put a jar of roasted peppers in my cart, and took them out of my hands. Before I could protest, she had walked off to the produce aisle to find the perfect peppers for the lesson she planned to give me.
Her insistence on my learning how to roast them amused me. But now I realize the value of it, the importance, in everything I do. How lucky we all were—my father, brother, and I, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, then grandchildren—to be the recipients of her teaching, her gifts, her need to create, solve problems. How blessed we all were to be in the presence of such an extraordinary woman….