Sure. I look pretty harmless. I’m polite to the neighbors, fairly unobtrusive when I leave the house, as middle aged ladies often are. No one could look at me and know that in August, within the confines of my home, I’ve got skills, mad skills. Because when boiling sun and steamy air turn the tiny green figs into golden orbs, I’m Granulatin’. Granulatin’ Bad.
You’re no doubt familiar with someone else who may appear mild in the outside world, but who leads a whole other life right under his neighbor’s noses. That’s right – Walter White.
Don’t think I have anything in common with Walter, or Walter with me? We’ll just see about that! Here are some similarities:
1) Highly desirable product: Walter’ s blue meth is apparently the stuff of dreams. OK, fine. But you should see the eyes widen when I walk into the yoga studio with a box of twelve gleaming jars of fig preserves. Excited murmurs float across the studio. When class is over they make a beeline for every last jar. Unconditional acceptance of your product by a yoga class says only one thing: 99.1 % pure, total quality.
2) Large amount of raw materials needed: Walter buys his in more than one location to avoid suspicion. But I HAVE to buy mine in multiple locations because no one stocks as many jars or as many boxes of pectin as I need. And unlike Walter, because I deal with a live ingredient, I can never predict the exact amount of supplies I need. They may suspect me of something at the grocery store when I dash in wearing sticky shoes and a stained T shirt and buy ALL of their eight ounce canning jars, but they know not to question me. I dare them to.
3) Specialized work environment and equipment: We each need to set up a pristine, industrial workspace. Mine is the kitchen. Walter may have a gas chromatograph while I use a spoon and my own mouth for quality control, but the concept is the same.
4) Total concentration: We can’t do anything else while cooking. We’re basically unreachable. When my harvest begins, I am in a flurry of picking, washing, cutting, cooking, sterilizing. My hands get too sticky to even think of touching a phone. So don’t call me. Walter and I agree that production stops when we say it stops.
5) Hazards: Yes, it is hazardous work. You are familiar with what Walter has faced through the years: beatings, torture, kidnapping, and even death. But what about me? I’ve bravely faced my share of challenges. Here is a short list:
a) Balancing on the part of an eight ladder where it says not to stand
b) While keeping up with a bag of figs over one shoulder
c) While grasping at leaves and branches and clutching them to your chest so you can pull off the figs with the other hand, sweat dripping off your brow,
d) And a swarm of mosquitoes gets close and personal with your armpits,
e) And getting down from said perch,
f) Dealing with the crazy violence that seems ubiquitous in the fig tree world
g) And even having to hide some ominous, foreshadowing symbols from my family, like this.
Inside the house, once I have gathered my figs I still have to endure deep, deep stickiness from spilled sugar and gooey figs, boiling water, hot pans, an extended cleanup, and last but not least, the sick feeling that comes from tasting preserves fifteen times. Let me tell you, I’ve paid my dues!
Walter and I, we’re a pair. We may threaten, cajole, and intimidate, but we get the product out. Still, we have our differences. First he sells his product for top dollar while mine is free of charge. Maybe I could sell mine, but unlike Walter I have no partner to handle the distribution end. Second, he can’t taste his product, but I can. Mr. White always uses the same recipe, while I I experiment with new flavors. This year I’ve added a little something different in every batch. Walter never divulges his recipes, but I can. I’m not trying to corner the market.
As fig season winds up, so does Walter’s last season. I don’t have a good feeling about his prospects, but he may surprise me yet. While we wait to learn his fate, won’t you try some of my fig preserves? Really. They’re free, and you won’t have to worry about going to jail! Postscript: This years flavors: cinnamon, cinnamon and ginger, rosemary and port, pepper, basil, amaretto, and that’s all I can remember. Tell that to the D.E.A.