This afternoon, Danny came back from his morning time with Little Bean, bags of groceries and produce from the farmstand in his arms, a smile on his face.
“Did you have a good time with Daddy?” I asked her, scooping her up in my arms for a hug. She nodded — her big, emphatic nod — eyes wide, already starting to babble. I covered her cheeks in kisses, making her giggle, then put her down so she could explore some more. Danny and I started unloading the bags.
“What did you two do?” I asked him, pulling out a fistful of fresh leeks, the dirt from the roots falling into the sink.
“I took her to the farmstand. And she loved it.”
We’re lucky here. There are at least a handful of farms on the island who grow produce all through the winter and leave the latest crop out in their stands. No one ever mans the tiny shacks or lean-to buildings. There’s just a piece of paper and pen, a rusting scale, and a coffee can. We grab a bunch of Russian kale or a pound of shallots, write down our purchase, and shove our money in the can.
Danny told me about his time with Little Bean, while she stood at the couch with an open Beatrix Potter book, babbling to the pages, pretending to read.
“It was so much fun. She walked into the little farmstand and she went whoo! Winter cabbage, hearty greens, purple potatoes, and these leeks. The excitement in her eyes as she walked around that cold little shack was so cool. She opened the door to the refrigerator and saw the chard. ‘Charr!!!!’”
(For some reason, this kid loves swiss chard. It’s probably because we like it so much. I saute it up in a hot pan, with olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper. Then I let it cool down, to keep her mouth from burning, and we eat it together, with our fingers, talking about our day. Whenever she sees what we are having, she shouts: “Charr!”)
This is part of the reason we moved here. “I want her to see that this is where the food comes from — the farm. Not from the grocery store, or from plastic. I want her to know her farmers and say, that’s the man who grew my salad. Maybe she’ll grow up with their kids and understand the life of the family farm more fully. Maybe she’ll appreciate food.”
Danny was chopping the fresh leeks as he told me this. I could smell the faint onion odor from them, mild, just a bit of a bite, not like the jagged tastes in the mouth that onions give. He was cooking pasta and blanching broccoli, rendering bacon and grating the Parmesan. We sat down with Little Bean, her feet dangling in her chair, and shared this dish for lunch.
While Little Bean napped, Danny checked his Facebook account, reading stories and silly sentences from friends. As I worked at this computer, he came charging into the room. “You have to read this. Jamie Oliver was in tears in West Virginia.”
Apparently, the people of Huntington, one of the poorest places in the United States, were openly hostile to Oliver’s ideas and his presence in the town. There might be many reasons for that. These things are always more nuanced than they look in a small story. But Danny and I both cannot get over this sentence, still:
“Jamie was also left flabbergasted after he asks a group of school children to identify vegetables, mistaking tomatoes for potatoes.”
Really? Tomatoes and potatoes?
We don’t doubt it’s true, however.
Certainly, Huntington is not all of America. That’s part of why it was chosen for that television show. However, it cannot be that far removed from the rest of us. According to Fast Food Nation, “Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers, computer software, or new cars. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music — combined.”
Once again — really?
I don’t want to say anything definitive here, or declare how this happened. I don’t know.
All I can say is that we are happy that our daughter is exuberant when walking with her dad into a farmstand down the road. And that she already knows the feeling of fresh leeks underneath her hands.
And you? How have you introduced your kids to food? Or how were you introduced to food? At the very least, how do you like your leeks?