Sunday, April 26, 2009

Worms and Pears - All about timing

“The early bird gets the worm.” I don’t know about you, but I heard that piece of wisdom many times growing up, probably when Mama was trying to coax me out of bed. In spite of its being, well, a little unappetizing for me, it always seemed to be a straightforward proverbial gem. First come, first served. Early to bed, early to rise. Get there early, be first in line. That sort of thing.

As I got older, I started to rethink my interpretation. I don’t think it is meant to glorify the state of being early as it does timeliness. Being at the right place at the right time. For birds, that may indeed be early, assuming there are a limited number of worms available and every other bird is out for as many as they can catch. And that makes sense - for birds. For humans, it’s a bit more complex. Good timing can be due to lots of things, including planning and just plain good luck. Some timing is in our control. For instance, in 1994 when we decided to move from Maine to Tennessee, we sat down and figured out when the perfect timing would be. We decided to wait until 1996 when our oldest, Rachel, had graduated from high school. Her brother, Matt, would be 13 at the time, finishing 7th grade. We figured we could move to Maine in June 1996, and that fall, Rachel could start college, and Matt could have a year in junior high to make friends before he moved on to high school. It worked out well.

On the other hand, there are places in life we gamble about timing. Who hasn’t wished for a life rewind button when stocks plummeted last year and beyond? I imagine there are some lucky or smart people who managed to buy low and sell high, but for most of us, it was and is a total gamble. I try to time my gasoline fill-ups to coincide with the lowest price, but sometimes I wait too late and the price has gone up again. Only recently being able to fly, I am novice at buying airline tickets, and hope that I wait late enough to see if the price goes down, but not too late to get the flight I want, or, heaven forbid, the price goes up.

I recently had three completely different timing experiences with fruits. I bought a mini-watermelon a week ago. I know - way too early for ripe watermelons, especially in Maine, but I was lucky; it was bright red, juicy and delicious. I decided to press my luck, and got another mini-melon from the same store a week later. Inedible. I could hardly remove the fork once it was in it. Then we bought some pears, brought them home and put them in a paper bag to ripen. Ed announced they were ready yesterday - and they were the most perfect pears I have ever eaten! We timed it exactly right.

The best piece of wisdom we have ever heard about eating food is this: “Choose foods that spoil. Eat them before they spoil.” It’s all about choice and timing. You know the foods that can spoil are the best for you - fresh, unprocessed, and full of vitamins and minerals. The catch is on the timing part. You have to try to eat them right at the peak of ripeness and flavor for that particular food. Sometimes, as I said, it takes instinct, planning and sometimes it’s just luck. (As much as I recall my grandfather thumping melons at roadside fruit stands, they say that’s not a good indicator of a good melon.) It’s so disappointing to taste a fruit or vegetable and discovering that it’s not ripe or one that is past its prime. It’s also frustrating to buy fresh produce and forget to prepare it before it is spoiled. But those days you bite into The Perfect Pear of Ecstasy, it makes it all worthwhile. “Choose foods that spoil, and eat them before they spoil.” Welcome spring - the race is on!

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