In Search of the Perfect Pepper

Even Peter Piper couldn’t have picked the perfect pepper that day. 

It was my husband’s birthday. Not a remarkable milestone one, but anymore, aren’t they are all remarkable? 

I promised in lieu of a fancy dinner out on the coldest day of the year that I would make his favorite dish, strictly following the recipe inherited when I was already eating yogurt and fruit while he was still stuck on peanut butter and jelly on Wonderbread. We tend to clash sometimes on what constitutes a good meal. 

The recipe is one of those ridiculous Seventies indulgences. Comfort food gone astray thanks to Velveeta and other conveniences. Too many oily, buttery things that gave us “comfort.” 

The handwritten ingredients on the page made me cringe when I inherited the recipe upon marriage. All that was missing seemed to be Spam and maybe ketchup. But I’d made a promise to adhere strictly to the original recipe this year in honor of his birthday. And I did. And that’s when the pepper story began. 

I could not find a green pepper in the grocery store. Not one single green pepper was to be found in our local go-to grocery store; neither was it available four miles away at the next best grocery store. Kid you not. There wasn’t a green pepper – had to be a green pepper because the recipe said so – in the radius of five miles. Three stores and lots of heated discussions later, I came up with a solution and what I thought would solve the birthday meal. 

Remember, this all started with a birthday request and a green pepper – a very minor but important ingredient because I was to follow the recipe and nothing else. 

It was turning into a long night with original good intentions. Yet I was getting hungry and frustrated looking for the holy grail. 

Left stage: enter the yellow pepper, understudy to the green one. Nice legs, good substitute for one performance. 

I finally found one in the produce section of the first grocery store I had tried, and mind you, it was organic, which meant I had to pay twice as much for a pepper. Husband, thrilled and adamant about that green pepper by now is truly getting on my nerves but calming down a bit because I’d found a pepper. 

Then… after getting in the car and review of the receipt, I got sent back to the customer service counter because we happened to be charged for TWO yellow peppers, and how could I not have noticed the price of yellow versus green peppers? Regular versus organic? Astounding price differences. 

The compromise of yellow versus green ended up as a happy meal shared after the calm of the storm made its way through my fragrant kitchen. I definitely couldn’t taste the difference between yellow and green, especially in a casserole with 99 ingredients, but I doubt I’ll ever look at a green pepper the same way, ever again. 

We are all facing shortages in a society that cherishes yet forgets abundance. My husband and I probably spent more on gasoline driving around looking for a perfect green pepper than it would take for Amazon to deliver one to my front door. 

So happy birthday to my husband who got his semi-perfect pepper. I ate the dish I worked so hard to create behind the scenes. Yeah, it was greasier than I am accustomed to eating and cooking, but it kept the peace. Peter Piper would be pickled happy. 

Wouldn’t you know it: two days later, there I was in the grocery store minding my own vegetables, when a young clerk unloaded a peck of peppers from who knows where, right before my eyes. 

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