Food for Thought

(July 20, 2018) There was a time when my youth prevailed and life could not have been better.

Modeling in New York City with one of the top agencies proved to be quite an exciting experience.

A few years later I was on scholarship at the Lee Strasberg Institute for acting in Los Angeles and was invited to study in London. Before I knew it, I was jet setting across the country, dining in the finest restaurants and enjoying a life of luxury.

Now that I have turned the ripe age of 60, I cannot remember a time where a little extra belly padding (if you will) has not grace my waistline. Wrinkles seem to magically appear out of thin air; my $200 jar of face cream doesn’t seem to do the trick anymore.

And if that’s not enough, reminders are posted throughout my home in case my Alzheimer’s kicks in. The mirror is a constant reflection and the image is not always easy to digest.

Change is an intricate part of life and acceptance is necessary if one values their sanity. As progression follows in the near distance, I have come to relish the art of cooking with all of its incredible wonders.

The kitchen has become my safe haven, free of petty judgement. The trinity of inquiry, passion and understanding are the deciding factors that lead me to solitude.

It is understood that cooking is about following carefully calculated recipes. It has also been established that the comprehension of science can greatly influence one’s ability, not grasp gastronomy.

And for those who appreciate the importance of creativity, cooking is an art that can be taken to levels beyond comprehension. But cookery is so much more. Allow me to share what I believe is the essence of sharing a meal.

Just as our family’s table settings seem to be dwindling, a few new ones are on the horizon. But that does not change the fact that I dearly miss those who are no longer with us. Each plate holds a lifetime of memories that can never be replaced.

A heart never forgets, but by incorporating these reminiscences into my menu, I can continue to share the many blessings that have made such an impression on my life.

Something as simple as pickled watermelon rind inundates my sense memory with delightful, aromatic recollections. I can see Aunt Jenny, clear as day, taking on the pressure cooker with no regrets. We did not have air conditioning and a wet, cool towel always adorned her neck during this heated, meticulous process.

I can remember Aunt Jenny telling me the art of pickling is to balance the sweetness with the acidity. That being said, most pickling recipes call for equal amounts of sugar and vinegar. I find that rice vinegar is the perfect vinegar for pickling. It has a nice bite to it that is typical for vinegar but is not as aggressive as other types of vinegars.

Things have changed, the art of canning is no longer a prevalent pastime. Fast-food and dollar menus are taking top honors, but “choice” is also for the partaking.

When I prepare pickled watermelon rind, I cannot help but think of the special times Aunt Jenny and I shared together. It also gives me the opportunity to share her delicious recipe for those who are not familiar with it.

Pickled watermelon rind is a southern tradition and is proudly displayed at local farmer’s markets. It can be served as an accompaniment to cheese and crackers, grilled meats, or even desserts.

Pickled watermelon presented in a canning jar adorned with rustic ribbon makes a lovely gift during the months of summer. If you want to a have a taste of the past, pickled watermelon rind is the perfect bite. Enjoy!

Pickle Watermelon Rind

Ingredients

6 cups water

3 pounds watermelon rind

1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups rice vinegar

1 ½ cups sugar

splash of vanilla

2 tablespoons pickling spice

1 tablespoon whole Jamaican allspice

2 inches cinnamon

1. Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, remove the green skin from the watermelon rind; discard. The removal of the dark green rind helps facilitate the pickling process. Using a spoon, scrape any remaining pink flesh from the white rind; again discard. Cut the rind into 2-by-1/2-inch pieces.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine 5 cups water and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil. Add the watermelon rind, lower heat and cook at a rapid simmer until tender but not mushy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a clean, quart jar.

3. In the reserved saucepan, combine 1 cup water, ½ teaspoon salt, vinegar, sugar, vanilla, pickling spice, Jamaican allspice and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt, and pour the hot liquid into the canning jar (over the rind).

Allow to cool to room temperature. Then secure top of the canning jar and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 weeks.

Secret Ingredient — Time. “The end of time is the birthday of eternity.”

– Edward Council

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