As Baby Harbat became Toddler Harbat, and now as she transitions to Little Girl Harbat, I understand how much our actions influence her upbringing. She learns by absorption, observation, and imitation. Because she sees us working in the kitchen so much, I’m beginning to understand how she is learning about the relationship between garden, food, and stomach. This is a good thing, something I never could’ve predicted when she was an abstraction in my wife’s belly.
Toddler Harbat and I both learned something about food this weekend. On Friday we walked up to the farmer’s market for our eggs, some greens, and a replenishment of fruit. What’s in season? Plenty, it turns out, from swollen strawberries to avocados, but it was the diminutive Japanese woman selling citrus that caught my wife’s eye. We see her there each week, a silent sun-baked figure with tendony hands arranging baskets of dusty lemons, odd-shaped grapefruit, and spherical yellow Key limes. This time it was the brilliant orange kumquats that enticed us. I tried a sample and wished I’d been sitting down. BAM! Ultra-sour tanginess is followed with a burst of seductive sweet, melding together in the span of two seconds into perfect harmony. Either flavor on its own would be overwhelming, and in a package the size of a large grape, a kumquat is the perfect pick-me-up amuse-bouche for a hot summer afternoon.
I learned that when you bite into a kumquat, keep your mouth closed and be prepared for a wild ride. Toddler Harbat learned that if you just bite into the sour rind and don’t get to the sweet fruit inside, the imbalance will turn your face into a puckered knot. With every trip to the farmer’s market, every harvest of a crimson tomato or massive zucchini from the garden, every handful of parsley clipped from the plant and scattered on our pizza, every foray to the blueberry bush to check for dark blue fruit hidden in the leaves, Toddler Harbat is learning that food doesn’t come from the grocery store, it comes from the Earth. The more I let her grow and prepare food, the more hope I have for the future.