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Sometimes It’s OK to Throw Food Away

Recently my mom gave me some white cucumbers.

They were supposed to be white. That was the weird part.

To me, green is a nice healthy color. It screams, “Eat me! I’ve got something your body needs!” White vegetables are fine—I’m fond of jicama and cauliflower, and russet potatoes are fine. But on a vegetable that I normally think of as green, white screams, “I’m dead! I’m decomposing! Don’t eat me!”

Despite my vegetable color inhibitions, I was willing to give the ghostly cucumbers a try.

The only problem was, I don’t really know how to use cucumbers. I enjoy the fresh taste of cucumbers on sandwiches, but one cucumber cut into slices goes a long way, and I not only had my mom’s two anemic-looking cucumbers, but I also had two healthier-looking green cucumbers.  And I only wanted to eat so many sandwiches.

Plus, these last few weeks have been incredibly busy for me and I didn’t anticipate having much time to cook in the near future.

I could picture what would happen: those white cucumbers would sit in the fridge, slowing getting rubbery and shriveled and all the while becoming even more unappetizing. Then my mom would call and want to know how I liked the cucumbers she sent me. Having grown these cucumbers by the sweat of her brow, picked them, cleaned them, and sent them with my dad all the way from Minnesota to Iowa would mean that my mom has affection for and pride in these pale vegetables that I just didn’t want to shatter.

I needed a quick fix for my cucumbers.

As luck would have it, when I was working at the library just one day later, a cookbook came in through our drop box that I happened to pick up and peruse.

That cookbook just happened to have a cucumber soup in it.

That cucumber soup just happened to call for 11 cucumbers.

I didn’t have 11 cucumbers, but I thought, “I’m an experienced enough cook, right? I can improvise a little bit, right?”

So, that’s just what I did. I added the vinegar and the honey to the chopped and peeled cucumber pieces. I let it marinate overnight. And then I pureed the whole mess with an avocado.

It was during the pureeing that I first began to notice how quiet my husband was.
It was when I set the big bowl of cold green soup on the table that I realized my husband’s silence had nothing to do with being tired from work.

Here is what my husband saw:


My husband, who for me will eat kidney beans and tofu instead of meat, who will calmly consume Brussels sprouts and cabbage, was turning his nose up at the cucumber soup.

His upturned nose proved to be a premonition because, as it turns out, neither of us could stand the texture like watery applesauce and the strong flavor of vinegar.

We had a whole big bowlful of cold cucumber soup.

What to do?

You guessed it: I threw it all away.

The whole bowl of soup poured into a Ziploc bag and dropped in the garbage.

I raged at myself inwardly for a few minutes—my inability to recognize a terrible recipe, my waste of a delicious avocado, my callous misuse of my mom’s hard-earned cucumbers.

But I finally decided to give myself some grace. As much of a perfectionist as I am, sometimes in my life, it really will be necessary to give up, throw out what I’ve been working on, and start over.

Of course, lessons can and should be learned, such as:

“Read through ingredients critically before you throw them together.”

And, “Make smaller batches when trying new recipes.”

Or, “Don’t make a chilled cucumber soup. Ever.”

I suppose my mom will eventually want to know what happened to her white cucumbers. I will be truthful. And when I share with her the picture of our chilled cucumber soup, I’m pretty sure she will agree that sometimes it’s OK to throw food away.

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