Monday, August 15, 2016

Er, what does my pomelo salad have to do with Simone Biles?

I was peeling the pomelo I bought this morning, a football-sized, grapefruit-like fruit that’s encased in thick pith and skin. I was looking forward to having its juicy sweetness add some punch to the Thai salad I was making. As I cut deeper and deeper into the pith, I realized that most of the weight of the fruit was in the pith and what I was left with was a very light, orange-sized fruit that was sour and worse, dried up. “Damn,” I thought to myself. “What was I going to serve up now?” Then I remembered the interview Golden Girl Simone Biles just gave.

I’ve been watching the Olympics in Rio avidly, and thrilled by the wins of champions like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Andy Murray. But none more so than Simone Biles, the pint-sized gymnast who has defied gravity and dazzled the world. I’m really more taken by her down-to-earth approach to her sport and well, life. When asked if she would attempt the Produnova, a death vault routine that, if mistimed, can cripple or even kill, she matter-of-factly answered, “I’m not trying to die.”

While watching the gymnastics events, and in fact, many of the other sports in Rio, what made some of the athletes stand out were their smiles, even before and sometimes during their event! The whole world could see that Michael Phelps was thoroughly enjoying himself, that it was very okay for him to share the silver with two others in the Butterfly, losing to a 21-year old Singaporean. After all, he had nothing left to prove.

While I cheered for Andy Murray in his win over Juan Martin Del Potro, I was captivated by Del Potro who gave the match all he had. He had come back from many months of injury and hadn’t played in many major tournaments in a while. He was exhausted in this finals match, and yet, when he lost a difficult point, could still manage a wry smile.

My heart went out to all the gymnasts in the finals, especially the Chinese girls who looked barely old enough to take part. The events were the culmination of years of training and sacrifice, and you could see the nervousness and anxiety etched on their faces, no matter how hard they tried to flash a smile to the camera.

Not Biles. She was totally focused during her routine, but at all other times, looked genuinely happy to be there. At the end of one event, while the girls were anxiously awaiting the final results, the camera caught her actually sneaking up behind the Russian competitor and poking her in the ribs!

The world groaned when she only managed a Bronze on the beam when she was expected to win it, but she tweeted that she was totally okay with the result. Again, because she had nothing left to prove.

And so to my dried up, sour pomelo. Am I going to bemoan the fact that my salad will not be up to expectation? Should I rush out to scour the supermarkets for another pomelo? (They can cost the earth, and there’s no guarantee they’ll be sweet and juicy.)

I decided, what the heck, I’ll just substitute grapefruit chunks for the pomelo. Added to all the other ingredients, it’ll make a wonderful salad, and sure to be polished off by the friends I’m making it for. More than anything, they’ll appreciate the effort I’ve put into it, and won’t miss an ingredient that failed me.

What do they say about "when life gives you lemons ..."? Oh never mind, you get it. The lesson I’ve learned from Simone Biles and some of these other athletes at the Olympics? Go all out and strive to be the best (or in my case, make the best damned salad I possibly can!). You'll suffer along the way (my fingers are smarting from the chillies I chopped!) but it'll be worth it. And above all, have fun while doing it!

Just go to My Recipes for the pomelo salad with roast duck I'm talking about, and yes, you can substitute grapefruit for it!

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