I stood there in the kitchen on a Saturday morning. I grabbed a knife, a cutting board, and a cantaloupe. If you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, than you certainly shouldn’t judge a fruit by its either. Seriously, who was brave enough to crack open the first pineapple? My guess was it fell out a tree and split open itself. No one could’ve ever imagined that there was anything so sweet and delicious in there, could they?
The cantaloupe is on the other end of deceitful shells. There is nothing foreboding about it. No prickly points or strange octopus-like bunches (again…who decided eating those first bananas was a good idea?). The cantaloupe may be the most unassuming of all fruits. It sits there all odd and oblong, not quite circular, a little bumpy, and most of the time a bit bruised. Also the color of its outside may very well be the inspiration for the rooms where they conduct standardized tests.
I grab the melon and slice it down the middle. Here’s where all of its beauty lies. Not just in that simple, sweet taste, but also in the perfect, soft shade of orange. In its juicy, texture and perfect ability to quench your thirst and hunger all in one. Whether it makes any sense or not, as far as I’m concerned, this is what all those Narnians were talking about when they referred to “Turkish Delight.”
But… even though you’re not stuck with seeds in the body like you are with watermelons, the cantaloupe’s brains sit right there in the center. They stare you down and dare you to dig your hands in. It’s here that I realize that maybe I’ve never done this myself. I’m not even positive that I knew this messy gunk existed right here in the middle of all this great fruit. I guess I just thought the cantaloupe came all full and bursting inside. I toss the brains down the disposal and pick up the knife again. I cut into quarters and begin to tackle the rind. The knife catching here and there, leaving good chunks of fruit there on the edges that I know I’m missing with my sloppy slices. I sort of jerk my way through the first bit and go on to the next. Slowly but surely I’m fashioning myself into a novice of a knifer. But let’s be clear, there’s nothing easy about any of this. In the horrible ratio of work:to:actual food enjoyment, perhaps only crawfish outdo cantaloupe. I had no idea.
Growing up, my mom knew that she had a picky little eater on her hands. Apart from all-things artificially flavored, she knew cantaloupes were really the only fruit that I’d consume with a smile on my face. After a long soccer practice, I’d come home all aching and limping. I’d open the fridge and there would be the white pyrex with the glass lid. Inside, with all of its cold condensation and subtle, sweet smell, sat perfectly sliced cantaloupe. Always. Saturday mornings…cantaloupe right there in the fridge. Like death and April 15th.
Mom never let on that cantaloupes took a little work. Like paying for soccer trips or school clothes, my parents never really pushed their effort for my sake to the center of our relationship. I suppose this post is about appreciating your folks and all the hard work they did and continue to do. But I believe what your parents would even hope for this post, is that it was also about growing up. It’s about learning the things your parents once learned. It’s about renting your first home or buying your first dog. It’s about something as big as choosing what church you want to attend on Sunday mornings…or something as small as choosing what to put on your family’s plates come dinnertime. Even more, I suppose it’s also about fleshing out the fruit.
And by the way, the cantaloupe was great. But of course, somehow, it wasn’t nearly as good as it was when Mom would cut it.