[I’m traveling this week, visiting a friend in California. I’ll resume our exploration of the Unofficial Guide to the Nia Principles with Principle 11 next week. For now, here is an essay. Enjoy.]
“We forget that every person, including ourselves, is new every moment.” ~ Tara Brach from Radical Acceptance
My Great Uncle Phil appeared in the world of my childhood twice a year. My memory of my grandmother’s younger brother, Philip, is of him sitting at her Thanksgiving and Christmas tables talking about the current plight of the New England Patriots and eating radishes.
Nana carefully set a precious pile of red radishes in a cut glass bowl by his plate for every holiday meal. Just for him. I asked why in the world she would do such a thing.
“Oh,” she said casually, as if this was a perfectly obvious sister-thing to do, “Philip loves radishes.”
At our family holiday gatherings, I hovered around the raw vegetable platter. Nana called it the “relish tray” which made no sense to me since relish was that pickley condiment we put on hot dogs. Whatever the name, I would stand by the spread and eat a steady stream of hand-cut carrot sticks, crunchy celery (sometimes fancily stuffed with cream cheese), cherry tomatoes (that exploded, so I had to remember to close my mouth), and cucumber spears with stripes of green skin peeled clean.
I devoured the relish tray, but I would never, ever go near the radishes. Their sometimes-spicy hotness made my childish palette wary. Pretty though they were—little ornaments of crisp red and white – I could not abide their bitterness.
Even when my parents grew Easter egg radishes in their fancy, space-aged hydroponic tubes, I never ate a single one. I stayed away even from these truly gorgeous globes of white and red, pink and purple. I knew that sharpness and bite lurked in the beautiful baubles. Even as a young adult, I was certain I wouldn’t like them so I never tasted them.
As I expect is true for most people, radish avoidance was rarely an issue for me, especially after meeting my husband, Frank, who detested them as I did. “They taste like crushed aspirin,” he said the first time the topic of radishes came up (as it inevitably must). The accuracy of his description was almost sexy.
Years passed and my story about me hating the bitter, aspirin-y radish persisted until my 50th summer, when a close friend brought a bunch of radishes from a farmer’s market. (How did she not know about my distaste for the repulsive little things?) Sheepishly, I accepted them and then fed them to the chickens who enjoyed the greens but struggled with the roots just as I did. Then, not three weeks later, another dear friend dropped off a picnic lunch which included a bright blue bowl full of radishes.
After she’d left the generous basket on our table, I raised an eyebrow and asked Frank why anyone would ever eat a radish. Knowing the food wisdom of both these wise friends, I thought I’d look it up.
Who’d have guessed it? A member of the notoriously nutritious cruciferous vegetable family, radishes are high in Vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants and low in calories.
I picked one up and eyeballed it. Beautiful as ever, lovingly trimmed, chilled and fresh. I looked at Frank dangerously and popped in in my mouth.
Sharp and crunchy and, yes, a little bitter but not unpleasantly so. Thinking of all that nourishment, I popped another. Frank looked first at them then at me. With lips pulled back, he nibbled the teeniest bite of one. Huh. Not bad.
Before long, the bright blue bowl was empty.
I buy radishes regularly now. I eat them as a snack and love them on salad. We just harvested our first crop of Easter eggs from our garden. They are beautiful and delicious and the chickens get the greens.
Impermanence is the nature of being human. Change is happening all the time. It is the way the world works. Even our preferences are always in flux. Hot yoga, traveling in a camper, and raising chickens are all things that I never even contemplated until just a few years ago (or poo-poo’ed them as crazy, tacky, and impractical, respectively).
Now I love them all.
My mind wanted the preferences of my childhood to be permanent so it grabbed onto the radish-hating story and never let go. My mind and its story kept me from years of lovely radishes. My mind told the story over and over and I believed it. I never stopped to question it. My new-found radish love makes me wonder: what else is my mind keeping me from?