I remember a young woman near Priština, in Kosovo, selling plum tomatoes from a plastic laundry tub to onlookers standing around a mass grave while men wearing strips of cloth over their faces dug it out, shovelful by shovelful, searching for loved ones. British soldiers gently laid down smashed watches, glasses, shirts, shoes, and bones for family members to identify.
It took the whole day. First the grave excavators got hungry and called the young woman over, then the townspeople did, and finally the soldiers. The tomatoes, which grew right next to - indeed, sometimes among - the fields that Serbian paramilitaries had sown with mass graves, were orange, bright, and sweet with the taste of the sun. We ate them out of our hands. Someone who lived nearby thoughtfully brought out a tin of black pepper. The soldiers wiped their chins on their sleeves with some chagrin between and said, "Bloody amazing, aren't they?"
Some people vividly remember three star restaurants in Paris and Rome. I consider myself privileged to have had memorable meals in places where the three stars are war, famine, and pestilence.
In societies torn by war, food is often the one chance people have to make anything in their day remarkable. The need to eat, and the desire to make it appealing, can organize time, dispel tedium, remind them of civility, and offer the occasion to mark - even to celebrate - surviving another day. It gives people who are almost bored to death (for war is usually more boring, hour to hour and day by to day, than it is frightening) a way to express their ingenuity and generosity.
Scott Simon reports on some of the most challenging events in our world with journalistic rigor and profound human care. Always thoughtfully seasoned with hope and a touch of humor, he has worked with National Public Radio since 1977, where he has been the long time host of Weekend Edition Saturday. Mr. Simon has received numerous honors in recognition of his work as both a host and correspondent. Most notably, these include the prestigious Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for NPR news team reporting covering the war in Kosovo as well as the Gulf War and September 11 and its aftermath. In addition, he was awarded the George Foster Peabody Award for his weekly radio essays, which covered such diverse events as the murder of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador and the San Francisco earthquake. To his well known work in radio Simon is contributing a growing body of written work including three recent books: Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan (2000); Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball (2002); and Pretty Birds (2005). In the summer of 2000, Simon married Caroline Richard with whom he thoroughly enjoys his hobbies of Mexican cooking, ballet, book collecting, and living and dying for the Chicago Cubs (and now the French national soccer team). Biographical content courtesy of NPR website.