What Looks Good?

Tyree was making salsa for the family. This time, finally, his mom was trusting him to use the sharp knife.
Mom still had advice, of course: “Bend your fingernails toward your palm, and cut away from your hand.” Tyree worked slowly, making perfect slices of the onions and jalapeño peppers.

“Mom, do we have more tomatoes?” he asked.

“Oh, we need some,” she replied. “Let’s run down to the farmer’s market.”

Tyree jumped up, put on his jacket, and bolted down three flights of stairs. His mom came behind him, carrying the wire grocery cart.

As they hurried past the playground, neighborhood boys were playing basketball. They shouted to one another to pass the ball, “Over here!” and “¡Hermano, aqui!” Mom knew they didn’t often invite Tyree to join them, and she noticed how her son looked down as they passed the court.

“Ty, what do you think about basketball?” she asked, gently.

“I like it, Mom,” he answered, “but I’m short, so I don’t get to play with the bigger kids. And my hands aren’t so good at dribbling, either.”

“Well,” she replied, “your hands may not be the best for basketball, but they are great with peelers and shredders and spatulas.”

Tyree nodded. He knew he was a star in the kitchen, that he could combine the best ingredients to make a delicious meal. He loved turmeric and cardamom. He could tell the difference between cayenne and paprika by sight. His spaghetti sauce smelled so good that neighbors would call out compliments as they passed his apartment door.

“What’s cooking, Tyree?” the lady next door called. “You put your foot in that pot!” Tyree smiled at her praise.

Now, as mother and son arrived at the market’s vegetable stands, Tyree searched for juiciest tomatoes. At the first farmer’s stall, he saw lumpy, oddly shaped ones. “Ugh! Not buying these gross-looking tomatoes,” he called to his mother.

The farmer, hearing him, walked over. “Smell this,” he said, holding one of those ugly tomatoes to Tyree’s nose. Tyree breathed in and was surprised by its rich, earthy aroma. “Wow, if this tastes as good as it smells…”

But then Tyree noticed round, rosy tomatoes in the next stall, so he leaned over and grabbed one. Seeing that, the farmer called out, “Before you buy any, son, give that tomato a sniff.”

Tyree’s nose quickly told him it would not taste as good. “Hmm,” he said, turning back to the first stand, “I guess not-so-pretty on the outside doesn’t tell you anything about what’s inside.”

“Now you’re talking, young man,” said the farmer. “Seems like you’ve got a good eye—and a sharp nose!”

“That’s right,” Tyree’s mom said, looking proudly at her son, “and he’s got a sharp mind, too!”