The budget wrangle in Washington continues, and President Obama is accused, on the one hand, of being dispassionate in securing our safety nets of Medicaid and Medicare. On the other hand, Obama is cited as showing frustration with his colleagues in Congress. Surely we want cool heads to prevail, so here’s a suggestion for those involved and for those of us just following it. Prepare and serve one of the finer fruits of summer Afghan style.

Serving as a smallpox vaccinator in Afghanistan in 1970 took me to Jalalabad where I was vaccinating in the villages through that summer. The heat is at least as relentless there as it is in D.C. It was so hot that year, the flies died. That was good, but finding relief from the heat during the daylight hours was challenging.

In that pre-Soviet, pre-civil war period in Afghanistan’s history, shaded stalls in the bazaar would be piled high with cucumbers, their tight green skins ready to burst with juiciness. Up to this time in my life I’d had no interest in this bland, seedy mass, but I’d never lived in such a hot place. My Afghan counterparts showed me how to prepare them. One sliced off each end and scrubbed the domed disc vigorously back and forth across the ends of the cucumber. This, they explained, would draw out the bitterness, and sure enough a white substance would appear like foam along the rim of the cuke. Salted and bitten off in chunks, from first firm bite to last, it was refreshing without a trace of bitterness.

Many years later while preparing a summer meal with Afghan friends studying here, I learned another technique for keeping cool with a cucumber.  Place the domed disc squarely on the forehead just above the nose. It will stick at least long enough to finish the chore of peeling, salting, and serving the cucumber.

Let’s take a lesson from the cucumber, a long-standing symbol of calm and steadfastness. Remaining unruffled in the midst of torrents of rhetoric cannot be easy for anyone, but leaders in Congress must do so. Nothing short of that seems likely to resolve the crisis for the benefit of all of the rest of us, cucumbers eaters or not.