Thursday, June 8, 2023 -
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The beauty dimension

Spring is that transitional of seasons that is perfection. Long gone are the cold and frigid days of winter, and pending still are the boiling hot days of summer. The temperatures are more moderate, yet the sunshine is abundant. Literally, there is more light. The days are longer, the darkness is diminished.

The world is in bloom.

All the colors of the rainbow take shape in a variety of gorgeous flowers from star shaped to teacup, bells to bowls, to trumpets and crowns.

Each flower evokes a different kind of beauty, joy or elegance.

For this past Shabbat I nabbed my first bouquet of the season — stunningly pink peonies, so resplendent and luxurious in their fullness and feminine charm.

By now, I have the delicate petals already raining onto my dining room table, decorating the side of the clear glass vase.

I look forward to spying a pot of orange or white icelandic poppy flowers, so delicate and gorgeous as they wave in the wind. I hope to plant some more of these ever so fragile and delicate beauties again this season.

At the market, the spring produce is overflowing — although I have yet to spy the long hot pink stalks of rhubarb that, at this point in the season, I usually have already turned to compote or pie.

Asparagus, I just learned, can be ever so thinly sliced on a bias into the loveliest daintiest of sliced ovals, creating an electric green border and creamy center of chic shapes — evoking the elusive kind of harmony that an elliptical shape tends to elicit, perfect as a side dish alongside your main slice of beef or fish, on the tableau of your springtime dinner plate.

Speaking of shapes, isn’t it extraordinary how fruits and vegetables can all be identified in so many ways, be it their taste, scent — but also by their shapes?

If we were to wake up at night, or if Heaven forbid someone cannot see, simply by touching a banana, an apple, a kiwi or pineapple, we know what it is we are holding in our hand.

There is a beauty to the variety in the shapes of fruits and vegetables.

And a practical use for the differing shapes too.

This spring season accentuates all of that beauty of creation as it re-emerges, yet again.

Like how Ford’s model Ts originally all came in the sole black lacquer finish, G-d could have created a world in which produce was all in black, as well as all in the same shape.

What artistry! What beauty.

When grace after meals is recited, one of its phrases is about how the food we are nourished by is created “be-chein, be-chesed, be-rachamim, in grace and beauty, in kindness, and in compassion.”

When we think of all the lovely vibrant produce of this spring season, as well as when much of what is sown now to be reaped in all of its deeper colors in the autumn, the chein, the beauty dimension of the fruits and vegetables is inescapable.

Sometimes there are the fun surprises in the shapes, too. The tomato or potato that seems to semi split and appear like a pair of twins, or the funny shaped vegetable that you suddenly notice has taken on the shape of a heart, or sometimes other really fun, quirky shapes.

The brightness of citrus, like lemons and limes, seems to make its way into all the cooking in an even higher frequency than usual. Slicing through the intensely refreshing and glowy green, sweet-tart limes, with their attendant fragrance that awakens the senses, is such a delight, even if it’s not for cocktails!

Taking food from its raw form to the table, without needing to tinker or fiddle with it too much, is part of the pleasure. The fruits and vegetables are ripe, so pure in their flavor, that it’s often a case of less is more, and a sprinkling of salt on a luscious tomato, or a squeeze of a lime on a bowl of fruit, yields such perfect taste.

Even non-produce oriented food takes on a more minimalist effort.

Unlike in the winter, when the secret ingredient to enhancing the flavor of the food may be, say, simmering an onion soup on the flame for hours, or long simmering a winter stew, the brevity of the process in cooking is often part of the joy in spring-summer food preparation, when quick and cold is ideal.

A beautiful bowl of cubed pale spring-green honeydew, dotted with hulled, magenta raspberries, so unique a berry that you could naturally fit it onto your pinkie finger, all those little pink shaped drops clustered together into a little cap of sorts, makes for a perfect signature springtime dessert.

No flour, no sugar, no pantry ingredients or other kitchen gadgets needed. Never mind the heat of an oven!

This truly is the season to stop and smell the newly blooming array of flowers that each day seem to pop up in greater frequency, to enjoy the taste, color and beauty of produce raw, straight from the vine, the tree or perhaps the earth itself.

It’s the season where the chein, the grace of the world, enraptures you.

If Percy Bysshe Shelley expressed the anticipation for spring in the words, “O wind, if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” King Solomon expressed the magic of spring in The Song of Songs:

“For behold the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth once again. The time for singing has come. And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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