Sunday, November 8, 2009

Does "Whole Foods" Mean Eating the Stem?

Cecily eats whole pears. She devours them from stem to stern, in great, greedy bites, leaving only the stickiness of her fingers as evidence of the edible encounter.
Who gave her that pear with a stem still attached? Who strapped her into her booster seat and slapped down uncut fruit on her tray? That pear might as well have a label fixed to the stem that says "My Mom can't be bothered with a knife," or "My Mom is too busy washing dishes," or "I am child number three."
We could call it lazy...but let's not. I do have my mental health to look after.

When Caroline was two our plum tree brought forth branches so heavy with fruit that a few of those branches couldn't hold their own. In the dark of night they buckled under the weight of luscious, ripe plums. This became Caroline's sustenance for the week that followed. Several times a day she would make her way out the back door to gather the harvest. She would squat and suck the nectar from as many of those little purple orbs as she wanted. I couldn't say for sure that she never swallowed a pit, but I can vouch for her having never choked on a pit.

This is the way to feed children...whole foods, in the purest sense. Yes, it comes of being busy, or being tired from being busy. It comes with the addition of more hungry mouths, but mostly more hungry whines and words. whole consuming affair picks at my consciousness like the vexing drip, drip, drip of the Chinese water torture. Filling our vacuous bellies seems so...stone age, like we could have moved past this tedium around the same time penicillin moved us past the tedium of dying from a cut.
My Mother maintains that the day of "the pill" will come.
No, not that "pill". That one is old news.
She means the one that really liberates women. The pill we set down on the table with a glass of water in front of each famished member of the family that has gathered for a bounteous meal, and tell them to "dig in." Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub.

And I sometimes think I would buy that pill and dish it up guilt-free to my family three times a day...

Until I eat one of those pears that Cecily has been feasting on. Not the pear from the store, but the one off the tree in my back garden. I am a "God made the earth so it could bring forth perfect strawberries" kind of person. Although in late August we would just switch that strawberry bit out for "peaches." And then came the house with the pear tree. After five years of owning this house and this tree, I have finally figured out when to pick them. There is a thirty minute window between the time a single fruit reaches its full size and then begins to ripen. It is a different thirty minute window for every pear. This is too complicated for me, so I guesstimate and pick the tree clean in two harvests about a week apart. I empty my refrigerator of insipid things like milk or bread and fill it full of not-quite-ripe pears. These I remove four or five at a time to sit on the counter and ripen to...perfection? I marvel that I could think such a thing of a fruit that has so long been just bland, gritty flesh to me. But I tell you, every last fruit off this tree is perfection. It's like a new species. It is an ambrosia tree in my back garden.

I know food is heavenly beyond many things in this life. My pears keep me anchored to this reality. So I blame the absence of a dishwasher in my kitchen as the source of my food rancor. Well, no dishwasher and three kids. Ok, no dishwasher, three kids, and no one to cook or clean for me.
Oh no! That really is called lazy.
I need a new food paradigm. One that doesn't torture me.
It starts with feeling good about "whole foods" as distributed a la me. Giving a kid an apple doesn't dirty a dish, and it's good for my psyche.

Cecily may have swallowed a few pear seeds in her time (all fifteen months of it), but she is none the worse for wear. So far no pear trees are sprouting out her ears.

I'll keep cooking dinner (most of the time). But I am working on my gardening skills, and someday I will do as my husband's grandmother and announce to the family that "dinner is in the garden."


Susan said...

Contemplating the endless stream of dinners behind her and the endless stream to come, my mom would often say when we had finished eating, "Well, that's another one down the hatch." But she had to cook to please my meat-and-potatoes father who didn't allow much experimentation. Cooking can be fun when you have the time, money, and interest, and especially when you LOVE to eat.

Wayne said...

I just discovered that I love it when you talk about your mother. It allows me to see her in a completely different context that provides new insight, appreciation, and affection. Who knew? Do it some more . . . .

Chani Riiell said...

You could be published.