Bitter Melon, Bitter Tears
By Tom // Posted 11 August, 2011 in: Food + Drink
I’m sorry, bitter melon, but I don’t think it’s going to work out between us. No, hush, just listen.
I remember when I first saw you at the farmers market. You were so different from all the other vegetables, all rough around the edges. I admit I was afraid to approach you, and I had a real thing going for zucchini at the time, so I just let you be. But I couldn’t get you out of my head. Finally, after reading about your virtues in Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America, I screwed up the courage to talk to you.
Things were going so well when I first brought you home. Remember how lovingly I cleaned your every crease and crevasse with a mushroom brush? You didn’t even complain when, in my youthful inexperience, I cut you in half lengthwise, when we both know you deserve to be cut in half crosswise. And then to look at your seeds. Oh, your seeds. So large, so bright red, your seeds were just screaming of your readiness, your ripeness. As I lovingly filled you with a mixture of pork, onions and cilantro and set you to simmer nice and slow, our future together seemed — and smelled — so bright.
No, don’t cry. Look: it’s not about you, it’s me. I was raised in the American Midwest on two flavors: sweet and salty. Have you tasted our ketchup? Nothing in my culture, my upbringing prepared me for a bitter flavor like yours. So, so bitter. You were like nothing I’ve ever tasted before, and you deserve to be with someone who will really appreciate you.
Maybe if I just didn’t try to consume so much of you at one time, if I chopped you into a salad, if I used you as an accented flavor rather than the main part of the dish, maybe then… No — you’re right. No sense in fooling ourselves. It’s over. Goodbye, bitter melon.