Food is a big topic in our home.
Our tiny person has two parents who love food. One is a farmer, the other a foodie and a forager. Both of us love experimenting with new food and recipes and take great pleasure in the ingredients and how food is prepared and comes together to create something beautiful.
Our days are often filled with discussion of food in its various stages—everything from how the tomatoes are ripening, to the sweetness or bitterness of a lettuce leaf. We talk about the right stage to harvest microgreens, and when they might become “macrogreens” best used in a braising mix or stirfry. And of course, we enjoy eating wonderful, beautiful food and delighting in all the flavours — the final results of something grown, of someone’s immense amount of labour and love.
As a result, our tiny person has been engaging in various forms of imaginative food play since he was barely able to speak. He pretends to drive tractors, he invents new recipes in his tiny kitchens and he takes interest in how he serves it all to us: all the dishes, cutlery, and condiments. He likes to create ‘garden soup’ outside—fabulous concoctions of pond water, compost, dirt, leftover lunch scraps that he chose not to eat, rose petals, nasturtiums, and rocks. Of course, we are all told to sit down as he serves us his soup and we marvel over the many ingredient choices.
While strawberry-picking, recently, he wandered away from me into the broccoli patch to uproot two large broccoli plants. The broccoli plants were not actually broccoli, I was told, but kale. He then took great interest in planting his “kale” into new holes that he dug, and told me that they would take a “long, long time to grow.” On occasion he still asks if we can go and see if his kale is ready yet.
Who knows if this will last, for tiny person also has his picky-food moments. There was a white-food stage where he insisted on eating only plain bread with nothing on it—not even toasted, plain tortillas when we had Mexican food—and plain yogurt. No added flavour whatsoever. We try not to force him to eat, while encouraging new things all the time. He likes to be a part of our food preparation, from the harvest to the kitchen-time, and enjoys when we all sit together for a meal, even if he only has a bite or two from his plate.
And now, as we approach the end of summer, he is learning about a new type of food ritual — the gathering and foraging rituals.
Suddenly, we are able to fill our mornings with hikes to pick blueberries, red currants, and raspberries. There has been strawberry picking and tomato harvesting too. He is excited about all of it and wants help to fill his little berry pack. Sometimes he eats many berries as we pick, and other times he is happy to save his found treasures to show daddy, and to think of a way to use them (blueberry pancakes!). It’s an exciting time, as we wander through woods looking for chanterelles and blueberries.
Now, as we wander the farm, he is quickly pointing out to me random spots of red through the trees, or new mushrooms that he wants to know about. He is interested in what to do with them, and how we’re going to eat them. And the season is really only beginning; he is aware of and points to the apple and plum trees, and we talk about partridgeberries still to come.
And so it continues. For our tiny boy comes from generations of both farmers and fisherpeople on both sides of his family. He speaks with his grandpa about fishing, and he pretends to fish in the pond, talking about the fish in the water. He enjoys going by the ocean to see the boats and the fishers, and to watch their preparation as they leave the boats with their catch from the sea.
This tiny person really is the most fun to gather food with. There is something wonderful about teaching these ways and tools, about seeing the excitement on his face as he collects blueberries and strawberries. My hope is that he is developing a connection with our land and sea, in order to see where our food comes from, how it is grown and gathered, and to develop an appreciation for this Earth. It’s a beautiful place, and a beautiful way of life.