When life gives you lemons

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Sometimes it’s better to give your fortune cookie away.

“Your life will get more and more exciting,” reads the fortune taped to my fridge. I saved it back in November, back when I had high hopes for 2020.

Now, on this second day of April, I can report that my fortune is finally coming true.

Today was the day I moved the jar of preserved lemons from the counter top into the fridge – one of two dates marked in April on my wall calendar: Move lemons to fridge, and, wait for it, Lemons ready.

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My favourite basket finds its true calling.

When life gives you lemons, preserve them. With a basket full of lemons and no neighbours to safely share them with, I can finally tick item number 11 off my “To Do” list, an item, incidentally, that’s been swimming around my mind for six years.

Ever since that glorious day I spent on the Amalfi Coast in the spring of 2014, where the only limit to what you can do with a lemon is your own imagination, I’ve wanted to try my hand at preserved lemons. I’m only sorry it took a pandemic to get me stuffing salt into their fragrant cavities.

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Stand tall, stand proud, oh vessel of my finest hour.

When I remember to shake my concoction every day and flip it upside down, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I watch salt and pith and flesh and juice swirl into a brackish cloud, satisfied.

As the sun sets and my bottle of preserved lemons sits safely in the fridge, awaiting the fateful April 24th, the clapping party diehards play a song created to give Spaniards, now finishing their 17th day of lockdown, a boost: Quédate En Casa, or Stay Home (in honour of the ubiquitous social media hashtag taking the country by a storm).

People need a boost right now. To date, more than 10,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Spain, more than 110,000 are currently infected.

But even as I grieve for a country that’s going into convulsions, I think of other countries I have known and loved. As I sit here sipping a glass of port, I think of the article in the Guardian that says while some in India sip viognier during lockdown, millions of the country’s poor have been “thrown to the wolves.”

This scenario, I am sure, is playing out over and over again all over the world, and always has been to a certain extent. But for some reason now feels different. Like a game of freeze tag, so much of what we usually ignore stands in stark relief, immobile and trying hard not to blink.

To shake our jars of preserved lemons, to watch seagulls hover in a rose-coloured sky,  might be all we can do right now as we wait to see what will remain after pith and flesh have settled.

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Even the seagulls are confused.