Haibun: Things I learned in the CIA

Posted for Mish’s prompt at dVerse Poets Pub – finding beauty in the ugly.

Haibun: Things I learned in the CIA
“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.” Anthony Bourdain
Many years ago, I attended and graduated from the CIA – The Culinary Institute of America that is. I was paired up with a tall lanky homely young man with curly hair and large deft hands. Unlike the rest of us, he always had a piece of rotting fruit or vegetable on his work station. Out of reach of the knives and other items, but always there. I remember once one of the instructors yelling at him to get rid of that damned piece of rotten fruit. He would but the next day, another one took its place. I think the others felt sorry for me because I was paired with him but I liked him a lot. He was dryly funny and open to everything. We became lovers after a fashion and finally I asked him the question: Why the rotting fruit? He smiled and said, “in its own way, it is so beautiful. And we all come to this you know.” I would sometimes see him lift a pear, an orange, a bell pepper and look at it from all angles before carefully replacing it on the table. After graduation and working under some excellent chefs, he went his way and I mine. I never forgot him. And no, it was not Tony Bourdain.
rotting fruit
in its season –
so must we all

43 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Frank J. Tassone
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 19:05:52

    Exsquisite, Toni! The piece of rotting fruit at the edge of his cutting station, the Instructor’s yell, his all-too-zen perspective on it: you beautifully and imagistically tell a marvelous story!

    Reply

  2. Frank J. Tassone
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 19:06:37

    Reblogged this on Frank J. Tassone and commented:
    #Haiku Happenings #10: Toni’s latest #haibun for #dversepoets!

    Reply

  3. Gina
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 19:23:56

    the beauty in decay and how only one with a beautiful heart can appreciate its delicate presence. i love the story of two people connecting over food and fruit more Toni.

    Reply

  4. Beverly Crawford
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 19:42:04

    Well, this is depressing. Just when I thought I’d be a luscious fruit forever!!

    Reply

  5. gillena cox
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 19:51:21

    A statement of mortality. A statement of reality
    Nice write Toni.
    Happy you dropped by my blog today

    Much❤💛❤love

    Reply

  6. Grace
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 20:02:55

    What a beautiful perspective of the rotten fruit. We all have our seasons, true. Lovely share Toni!

    Reply

  7. rothpoetry
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 21:48:02

    I love your story. Such great wisdom in the theory of rotten fruit. Yes, we all have our season!

    Reply

  8. Victoria C. Slotto
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 21:50:23

    Toni, this is so special. I’m playing with an idea that involves dying and you may just see me if I can make time. Or maybe for OLN. I’m wracking my brain for the name of the classical still life artist who would include something like a piece of rotting fruit or a fly–something seemingly unpleasant–in his work. Now that will keep me awake.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 16, 2018 @ 23:04:10

      The photographer I know, Pilcher, dies pics of rotting food. Caravaggio? There are winderful images of rotting/rotten fruit on Google images, where I got the image I used. I think this would be an amazing write.

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  9. Jade M. Wong
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 22:07:29

    He sounds like a wise man and I’m sure he became an excellent chef! This was a lovely story. Never thought I’d see the day when I’d appreciate rotting fruit!

    Reply

  10. areadingwriter
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 02:27:13

    Oh what a new and refreshing perspective. This reminded me of a crap challenge in Master Chef season 9. 🙂

    Reply

  11. kim881
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 03:41:43

    Another wonderful anecdote, Toni! It’s so refreshing to see things through another person’s eyes. I love the way you described him as ‘a tall lanky homely young man with curly hair and large deft hands’ – sounds like my husband when he was younger. and I love his philosophy.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 17, 2018 @ 07:00:24

      Thank you Kim. Haibun are supposed to be nonfiction after all. I remember his name was James, like my father and that he had deep brown eyes. Soft spoken as well. I liked his philosophy as well and still do. He caused me to look at food as art.

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  12. qbit
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 08:11:02

    ““in its own way, it is so beautiful. And we all come to this you know.”” — that is fantastic. Wow.

    Reply

  13. lillian
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 09:31:40

    You have led the most interesting life! How I would love to visit you one day and just sit down over a cup of something and chat!
    Love your sense of humor here…CIA…and who it was not.
    So so true….we all come to that. The withering on the vine or off.

    Reply

  14. V.J. Knutson
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 10:06:54

    What an interesting fellow! Rather fatalistic viewpoint – says one at the rot point of life, lol. Course he taught respect, I suppose.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 17, 2018 @ 10:17:38

      I don’t know about respect. I remember him as a gentle, funny man. He was actually upbeat about his viewpoint and accepted it as life. Of course we were both 25 with our lives in front of us.

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  15. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 15:44:20

    This is a wonderful viewpoint… and somehow that rotting fruit being there is almost like a talisman too… the beauty of decay… here in Europe there are shops who are selling fruits and vegetables with defects instead of throwing them away… often you can cook with them… you just have to cut away a few little parts…

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 17, 2018 @ 15:49:18

      Exactly. There is a great movement among restaurants to use prepared food or “defective” vegetables to prevent waste. I always cruise the clearance bins at shops to see what is available in them. Often at produce stands, there will be veggies that are just a little off with spots, rotten spots, etc. I often see people around the bins looking for things. At the food bank where I volunteer, there are bins of veggies to be picked through by the clients for their weekly food allotment. The leftovers, we cook.

      Reply

  16. Charmed Chaos
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 15:57:03

    I really love this Toni.

    Reply

  17. Frank Hubeny
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 16:35:44

    Good observation about that rotting fruit.

    Reply

  18. Mish
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 17:44:09

    Such an interesting story. His appreciation for rotting fruit really did show his character of seeing beauty in a different way. How wonderful that his unique perspective had an impact on you and to this day.

    Reply

  19. Janice
    Oct 17, 2018 @ 19:53:44

    This is a fascinating story Toni…glad you shared it.

    Reply

  20. Gospel Isosceles
    Oct 18, 2018 @ 10:48:39

    😊 Kinda like how grapes become rai-Zens.

    Reply

  21. purplepeninportland
    Oct 18, 2018 @ 17:01:58

    Great story, Toni. I love the haiku that brought this to (fruition). Yeah, I know.

    Reply

  22. coalblack
    Oct 20, 2018 @ 10:21:30

    This is instantly one of my favorites of yours, Toni. I wonder what Dorian would think of it?

    Reply

  23. Jim
    Nov 06, 2018 @ 18:01:20

    I had a friend, a retired minister, who regularly visited persons who were hospitalized. His bouquet would be of dead flowers, brown but upright. That was his trademark, he’d been there, like the Silver Bullet of the Lone Ranger.
    ..

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Nov 06, 2018 @ 19:25:04

      Very interesting. I knew a priest who would visit with an apple or a pear which would probably go bad in a day or two. He would always say, get out of here quick! Thus fruit isn’t going to last forever you know.

      Reply

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