Of course, now I'm grateful. Partly because those early cafeteria humiliations build character—or something like that. But also because, while I hated feeling different than everyone else, I loved those fresh pepper spears. These days, I can express my pepper enthusiasm out in the open without the fear of bullying, so when bell peppers crowd the market in a rainbow of red, yellow, green, orange, brown, and purple, like they do each August, I don't hesitate. Chopped raw into salads, softened and served alongside Italian sausage or baked chicken, or roasted at high heat until their blistered skin gives way to sweet, slippery filets, they shine at the center of countless dishes. They also remind me to call my mom every so often and say, "thanks for lunch."