In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”
-In the Desert (Stephen Crane)
It's a simple salad. Three ingredients the way I make it. Fresh arugula -- and these are so baby crisp, so darkly green and tender, plucked from the farm only last Saturday. A good aged Parmiagiano, a hardy, hearty block slightly oily in my hands, its scent familiar and comforting if not as mephitic as I normally like my cheeses; and a simple little lemon, bright canary yellow, firm and plump. Toss the arugula with the zest and juice of half a lemon. Shave Parmagiano on top.
This is a Bad Mood Salad. Chew. It's bitter. Chew chew chew. Sharp and wince inducing. Chew and swallow. It prolongs and teases out the things that enrage you, fills you with a sense of futility, makes you ponder, "What's the point?!"
Bitterness. Taste. Figuratively or literally?
A family friend recounts the night he realized that he and his fifth column had failed in an attempt to overthrow a corrupt and unstable government; and realizing he was alone at the rendezvous point, he recounts: "All I could taste was that bitterness throughout my mouth." And then from outside the safehouse, the stentorian tones of the men who had come to arrest him telling him that he was alone and that his friends had not come. "Bitterness."
"I feel so bitter," says a friend after the throes of a marital spat, her voice catching. "Why can't he understand what I want?"
Oh. We've all felt that sting before.
Her husband (and other husbands like him) probably wonders what it is she actually wants; the answer is not always clear in the laundry list of complaints and criteria that are hurled at him (them) when the internal hot springs of frustration and anguish finally boil over and overflow. The answer, in all its variants, comes down to this one simple requirement:
We yearn to be the sun in your Copernican universe.
Knowing we are loved is not the same as feeling we are loved. If you can set aside the Ptolemaic principle in which you are the Earth, we can give you a warm sun around which to revolve. It's much more pleasant than a blazing, blistering satellite intent on burning you to a crisp.
Bitterness is tasted in the back of the tongue. Is this why you swallow bitterness?
Every night I cut out my heart.
But in the morning it was full again.
-The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
Sometimes I get fancy and melt the Parmagiano to make a cheese crisp. Then I'll find some bacon and throw that in. And by that point, I'm not really in a bad mood any more.