The Luxury of Lime
Every year since we met, my husband and I host a Cuban Independence Day Party some time towards the end of May. We’re not closet Commies (and, in fact, we’re not even using the modern date Cubans honour under Fidel Castro) – we just enjoy Cuban food, mojitos, and a chance to get together with our friends for a unique, fun occasion. Every year we do it a little differently based on our circumstances, with a core list of old standbys: rum balls, guava (or cheese) mini-empanadas, our signature guacamole, and Key lime pie.
Every year until now, that is.
I have no idea what’s going on in the Florida Keys right now. Maybe it’s a weather situation or some kind of weird Key lime sickness infecting the crops. Maybe new climate patterns are forcing smaller yields. Or maybe the economic situation has changed how Key limes are distributed. But we were absolutely powerless to find a single Key lime in any of the grocery stores nearby.
Where are all the Key limes?
I was listening to podcasts from Krista Tippett’s On Being as I prepared the Coconut Cupcakes that we selected to replace our traditional Key lime pie, and came upon an episode featuring Dan Barber, a fascinating and brilliant chef who crusades for more ethical and more flavourful cooking that helps us consume sustainably. And he reminded me of something that, in this era of convenience, it’s so easy to forget.
Serving up Key limes in southern Ontario is just plain unnatural.
Really, it is. We throw around the word ‘unnatural’ as a pejorative term, particularly those of us who happen to be right-wing ideologues – gay marriage is ‘unnatural’, test-tube babies are ‘unnatural’, this or that technology is ‘unnatural’. What we forget is the real meaning of the word: not “gross and wrong and scary”, but “not possible without the intervention of human technologies”. Most of the things we take for granted – like highways, or clothing, or television, or Botox – are actually unnatural. That’s not necessarily bad, but we should be aware of the true nature of whatever we’re consuming. Is it natural or not?
It’s unnatural to have citrus fruits readily available in southern Ontario grocery stores, even during the summer months. Ontario is not a climate that does citrus fruit well. Yet we drove up to my mother-in-law’s place in southwestern Ontario to bake her a Key lime pie for her birthday in March, and when we stopped on the way at a Metro store, we found the Key limes in abundant supply. That’s a good thing, but let’s not fool ourselves. It’s a luxury. It’s unnatural.
So why get angry or frustrated when there are no Key limes in the grocery store on the day we want to make a Key lime pie? That’s the natural state of things. It’s only the illusions created by modern conveniences that have us thinking otherwise. Having no Key limes in southern Ontario is extremely normal. And, my God, it’s a miracle that would astonish our ancestors if they knew that even in the winter, Canadians are consuming citrus fruits that are reasonably fresh and tasty.
So often we’re tricked into ignoring the luxury of most of our everyday lives. Then, when the luxury breaks down temporarily – the car is in the shop, or they’re out of limes at the grocery store – we feel cheated out of something we should be able to take for granted.
Maybe if we see our lifestyle for what it really is – unspeakably luxurious – we can stop being angry when luxury fails us, and start feeling gratitude that our typical daily experience is one of luxury.
Posted on May 29, 2011, in Elemental & Earth-Based, Spiritual Flavour and tagged cooking, Cuban Independence Day, Dan Barber, Key lime pie, luxury, On Being, unnatural. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.