Lemons are Luscious when Sweetened

Lemons, front and back together.png  There is a wonderful song by the Kingston Trio from the 60’s I believe, about lemons. It contains a real truth concerning them: they must be sweetened to taste good. The chorus goes: “Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the lemon is impossible to eat. Very true, and it is also true that lemons can do all sorts of things besides make good recipes..

Versatile lemons can serve us in so many ways it is impossible to count them. You can use them to polish your furniture or to soften your elbows.  I found a lot about their uses when I was doing research for my book Up to my Neck in Lemons. In the Middle Ages ladies used a special straw brim with holes in it to lighten their hair. They would pull strands of hair through the holes and bleach them by painting them with lemon juice and sitting in the sun.

According to my research, the origin of lemons seems to be a mystery. They may have originated in India or perhaps China and are probably a hybrid of the sour orange and the citron. They were known in Egypt and the Middle East from 1000 AD.  They were used primarily as medicine or as an ornament. Once sailors learned to carry them on ships they prevented a disease called scurvy that comes from a lack of vitamin C. Christopher Columbus brought the seeds to the United States from Genoa, where they had been cultivated and used, though often as ornaments. When I visited southern Italy I saw lemon trees growing in gardens there.

Though as I discovered they have so many other uses, we usually think of lemons as food. Yet unlike most fruit, they are not meant to be eaten plain–like apples, or even peeled and sectioned like oranges.  Rather they make a fine ingredient or a wonderful seasoning. Life’s lemons are equally useful. They can season or sweeten our experience, helping us to make our best use of it to learn and grow. However it does take experience and tenacity both to learn this and to put it into operation.

The first and most important skill to develop is observation. I must first notice how I am looking at my life lemon. Once I see how I perceive it, I can change my perspective and see it differently. For example if I am feeling frustrated because something isn’t working the way I want it to, I can keep pushing against the difficulty or I can look to see if there is another way to approach it or perhaps even how I can use it to my advantage.

I can choose how to use this particular lemon—as a sour taste or as a reminder that something must change in order for me to succeed. Of course this can take time and effort, but so does any good recipe, whether for happy living or lemon meringue pudding or pie. In my new book, Up To My Neck in Lemons, I have many actual lemon recipes together with poems, and essays that provide examples of how I have dealt with some of my life lemons. If you would like a copy, please contact me. I’ll tell you how to get a personally autographed copy.

Finishing a Book

On the Edge       Like most who like to read I have several favorite authors whose books I look forward to. When I finish one it is always with a sigh, as I anticipate a wait of one to whatever amount of years before the next one emerges from her or his pen. I was fortunate that when I discovered one of my very favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon, she had already written seven books in the Outlander series. I found her books so fascinating that I read nothing else for nine months. This is very unusual for me. However, it was justified.

          Now I have just finished reading her latest book, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. While I don’t normally read 814 page books, hers are a very special exception. They are written with a background of accurate information about the 18th century, both in America and in Scotland, and what it was like to be alive then. The characters are vividly portrayed and their interactions are authentic as well as interesting. Even though the size of her books is somewhat daunting, they are a compelling read.

          Her characters are extremely interesting. The villainous ones are seldom completely or gratuitously so; the well behaved ones occasionally misbehave. Moreover, her research into the time period she writes about is very thorough. I have learned facts I otherwise never would have known about the American Revolution together with its participants on both the British and the Colonial side. One of her chief characters, the heroine is a medical professional. Ms Gabaldon writes in astounding, sometimes wrenching detail about various medical procedures performed during the heroine’s adventures.

          One of my favorite ways to occupy my mind is to think about something I am reading. I find that this helps greatly to keep me from worrying, fretting, or otherwise engaging in negative thinking. The antics and experiences of a good set of characters is a wonderful distraction from not only the usually dreadful news of the day but also any concerns I may have about things I can do nothing about.

          One of the reasons I am sad to be finished with this current book, is that I more often than not thought about the intriguing characters when I was doing chores or performing other activities that did not occupy my whole mind. I greatly preferred wondering what was going to happen next or why one of the characters is acting in a certain way to being nervous or concerned about what was or was not getting done or happening.

          Diana Gabaldon says it takes her four years to write one of her “big books.” I am sad to have to wait that long to read the next. If I get too impatient for the next one I can probably reread this one, as it is so rich I have most likely missed parts of it. However I am still so full with it I haven’t as yet chosen another book to occupy my mind.