Lemon Tree

  1. © VERONICA CIANFRANO 2012

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My Grandmother had a lemon tree growing on the side of her house in Frosinone.  It always had the biggest lemons I ever saw, and I used to think it was a useless fruit to have around.  It’s sour, you can’t just peel it and eat it, and it burns when you get the juice in an open wound.  But I do remember how big and beautiful that tree looked in the summer when we’d go and visit her.  She seemed to somehow gain strength or beauty from that tree.  I vaguely remember her, but when I do, I get an overwhelming feeling of warmth and a vision of her sitting under the shade of her lemon tree smiling at me in the most accepting way I’ve ever experienced.  Now that I’m older and I cook for myself, I realize how important and versatile the lemon is in all forms of cooking. In deserts, it’s that subtle ingredient that adds all the freshness to an otherwise sugary concoction.  In cooking, it adds a necessary element of acidity and brightness and is in fact a star component in pasta fagiolio, a staple of my family’s cooking history.  I am of the first generation of American born kids in my family and I just learned the other day that they call us the Simpson’s generation after the popular T.V. show.  This basically means that we are a generation of cynical, absurdist, escapist people that were raised by television and are therefore immersed in popular culture and brand loyalty.  Now that I’m an adult living fully in the realm of the internet and all its intrusiveness, I feel a complete loss of a sense of place.  I feel as though I just turned around and I’ve been adrift at sea for my whole life and am completely lost.  I have no compass and I’m ill equipped for navigation.  I’ve lived a life of utter distraction and I only know how to keep drifting.  Where is my anchor?  When I think of my grandmother, I feel a sense of loss. I can’t have my own lemon tree because I don’t have the tools to nurture it and I will never have a place to put it. 

I am only able to steer my boat hoping to aimlessly crash into some land eventually.  I have no plan to speak of, only a really clear point of origin.  And I’m forever grateful of that.