Sweet and Sour Surprise

by Rachel Crain on June 18, 2011 · 4 comments

in Salt Blog


Have you ever had a kumquat? Funny little word for a funny little citrus. I’m sure you’ve seen them during their season at your grocery store but they are now out of season. Winter’s citrus harvest is long over and spring has tucked away its carpet of greens. The first of summer is setting the stage for blueberries and strawberries to show us what they are really made of. But there they were anyway, a single crate of kumquats at Whole Foods where I was wandering around the produce end of things without a list or a plan or a much of a clue about anything. Especially after my week of strange job hunting. I wasn’t in the mood to hunt for anything anymore. These little gems caught my eye because they were still bright orange and I had never had one before. They looked a little lonely amongst the berries, like they had gotten lost somewhere between Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. My memory jarred a little. I thought I had a recipe filed that used kumquats so I decided it was time to try something new.

Driving home from the grocery store I thought about my most recent adventures in job hunting. Earlier in the week I realized that career orientated jobs in any field I’ve ever worked in are not opening up to me so I applied as a retail associate at a major department store. The application process required that I submit my resumé online and then go through a lengthy two-part survey. Part one is meant to evaluate your moral aptitude with questions along the lines of, “Have you ever told a white lie?” followed immediately by, “Have you ever smoked marijuana?”  Part two was a college entry exam. No joke. It went sort of like this:

1) If you have 4 cans of paint and 1 can of paint will coat 24-sq-inches of your 2200-sq-foot room, how many cans of paint will you need to coat the entire area? Time’s up!

2) Tenet is to Theologian as Hypothesis is to _____.  Time’s up!

3) What is the first letter of the vocabulary word defined as a strong fabric sheet connected by springs to a frame, used as a springboard. Time’s up!

Do you know the answers? Well neither did I and that is how my resumé ended up in a reject pile and why I will not be selling you socks in the menswear department anytime soon. Next stop, another major department store to fill out their much more reasonable application for employment. So reasonable, in fact, that immediately upon completing my application in the store a manager came to greet me for an instant face-to-face interview. That went so well that she called for an immediate second interview with a different store manager who thought that I was the bees knees. By interview’s end I was signing documents that begin the hiring process but my relief to at long last be offered a job was short lived. The managers explain that they like me. They want to hire me. They just don’t know as what yet. They tell me I should be on their management team but I may need to start as a low paid sales associate for a time. I can live with that. But then, the clincher. The possible deal breaker comes when they explain how the work schedule they offer to all employees is one set day off per week plus a second day off that is scheduled on a rotation with the rest of the staff. What this means is that my already extremely limited time with Josh will all but run out.

We don’t see each other during the week. Period. There are no evenings at home together and before you ask, no, he does not cook me dinner all the time. I eat dinner alone on the sofa every night because the demands of a restaurant career dictate long, laborious hours. Far from the lights of a reality TV soundstage, where there are no beautiful celebrity judges and no grand prize winners of fame and fortune, exists a beaten down lot of exhausted men and women in white chef coats. They come home to a sleeping spouse whom they haven’t seen or spoken to in days, save for sporadic text messages and if there’s time or luck, a voicemail. Our only time together comes during an unconventional Sunday-Monday weekend, days which have been sacred to us both for nearly ten years of marriage. Days when we catch up with each other over simple conversation. How are you? What’s new? We both do our best to put away minor, and even major, annoyances so that what time we do have together is not wasted on arguments. Sometimes we fail spectacularly but mostly we succeed because these moments together are precious and few. So getting offered this job, even at long last, forces me to ask my self if I am ready for its risks.

No. I’m not. Is it that easy? No. It’s not. Not when you’re a bible thumper like me and you’ve been praying, praying, praying with whole hearted belief that God would have your back and bring you the right job, sifting out the wrong offers and leaving the right one open. Which makes this dilemma all the more confusing because here is the first one out of twenty-four attempts to show signs of life. Where I come from signs of life give evidence that God is in the room and that means you sit up and pay attention even when what’s about to be said is going to be hard to hear.

In church circles you hear all the time phrases like, “Don’t block the blessing,” and “God works in mysterious ways,” or “Let go and let God,” and “Pray through.”  They are meant to booster your faith and to remind you that sometimes what doesn’t look right or feel right is in fact exactly right. Being a person of faith means that you are willing to be led into a darkness that you must trust is not going to envelope you and that when the lights come on you will find out that you are where your journey by night was always meant to deliver you.

I left the job interview having completed the paperwork I mentioned that gets the hiring process started but the store manager is still figuring out how she can fit me into their structure. I’m expecting a call from her with a real offer next week. Will I accept? That remains to be seen. What exactly is the position? What exactly is the pay? How much of my precious time with Josh do I stand to lose? Pray through.

Meanwhile the kumquats I brought home were a sweet and sour surprise. I tried my first one and it nearly brought tears to my eyes. You pop the whole thing in your mouth. Peel, seeds and all. Then you bear down under an overwhelming sour punch until sweet relief comes quick in a wash of bright, citrusy juice. The sour was almost too much to handle in that first taste and I actually stood up to smack the kitchen counter hard while the whole experience of that first bite awoke all of my senses. I wouldn’t have gone back for more if I didn’t already know and trust how this was going to work. Sweet relief was going to come if I was willing to bear down under the sour. I reached my hand in the bag for another and another. Sour. Sweet. Sour. Sweet.



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon June 19, 2011 at 6:33 am

Eloquent blog Rachel. Somehow the sweet and sour kumquats relate to the sweet sour job interview and all it entailed. I tried kumquats once-for the same reason as you. Because I never had before. They were weird. Very bitter is how I recall them. I want to try them again now:)


Rachel Crain June 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Thanks Shannon! I am going to make them into candied kumquats so the sweetness takes center stage and then I’m also going to try my new ice-cream maker to serve them dolloped on top of homemade vanilla. I’ll tell you how it all turns out!


The Informal Martriarch June 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm

You’re brave throwing a whole Kumquat in your mouth. Last I tried one I was a child and I did NOT like it. Maybe I should try again?

Hang in there. I tend to be obnoxious and find a silver lining in all things wrong. There’s gotta be one in there somewhere. Even if it’s that awful thing called character building. Ewww.


Rachel Crain June 22, 2011 at 8:24 am

I think the key to kumquats is to boost the sweetness and pair it with fat. I discovered a lot of recipes for jam which sounded good spread on buttery toast to me. I’m going to candy mine in sticky sweetness and then drizzle on homemade vanilla ice-cream. I’m still working on my ice-cream method but when I get it down I’ll post the recipe for the candied kumquats.

Thank you for your words of encouragement. Character building is about as exciting as paying the bills and doing chores. Boo. But it always feels good when its over!


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