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1.18.2005

The city of intrepid palates

Intensive training in anthropology and ethnographic methods has taught me the delicate art of participant observation, and, because it’s a shame to let these things atrophy, I feel compelled to exercise my skills every now and then, or constantly. I’m the one in the grocery check-out line who’s fervently studying the contents of your cart, the one quietly noting behavior on the bus. Most recently, using my best eavesdropping and staring skills, I’ve compiled an informal and quite accidental study, and the results are promising indeed. With a sample size of two and no further delay, I’m happy to announce, dear Seattle, that your children are of unrivaled sophistication. They’re very significant, statistically.

For example, I recently overheard the following conversation between a little girl and a man in the produce department of Whole Foods:

Man: “What kind of apples do you want?”
Girl: “Chocolate apples!”
Man: “I don’t think they have that kind….”

This is a child of unparalleled vision. And thank heavens, because this is just the sort of leader we need in these sorry times. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a few years and hope, in the meantime, that she’s not quashed by bland and tiresome adults, such as the inferior specimen accompanying her.

On Sunday night, I had the pleasure of dining with another model of refinement, a towheaded fifteen-month-old named Eero, the son of my friends Jenny and Thomas. When he’s not having his diaper changed or toddling around with a book in his fists, Eero is putting away spoonfuls of plain yogurt and mounds of roasted broccoli, raw red peppers, mangoes, and persimmons. He loves to drink fizzy water from his mother’s (glass!) cup, and he even springs for raw fennel, so long as he can take it like a little bird—standing in the kitchen, flapping his arms, stamping his feet with impatience, and opening his mouth wide.

Sunday night was no exception. While Jenny and I bustled around their cozy kitchen, putting the finishing touches on a homemade galette des rois,* whisking béchamel and whipping egg whites for a pumpkin-and-goat-cheese soufflé, shaving fennel for a salad, and chatting, Eero played with a head of radicchio and the bowl of the food processor. One should never underestimate the importance of being comfortable in the kitchen from an early age.

While the soufflé did its mysterious work in the oven, we sat down for a quick sip of white wine around a gorgeous hors d’oeuvre platter Jenny had improvised before my arrival.



It was stunning: two peppery hunks of salmon, caught and smoked by one of Thomas’s brothers; a pile of thinly shaved apple; a smattering of pomegranate seeds and slices of scallion; and a small bowl containing an ingenious mixture of mayonnaise, walnut oil, minced scallion, and pomegranate molasses. Listening for the oven timer, we cut thick slices from a crusty loaf of bread and piled them high with salmon, fruit, scallions, and the nutty, punchy mayonnaise. At one corner of the table, chunks of salmon and bread disappeared at an alarming rate into Eero’s little body. And he wasn’t finished. In the half-hour that followed, he got himself around two and a half servings of pumpkin soufflé and some plain yogurt topped with apple butter. I stared shamelessly. After all, as a kid, I was no Eero.

I’ve not yet determined what one must do to produce this sort of “intrepid palate,” as Jenny calls it. Perhaps there's something in the Seattle city water supply? Or a strategic coital position? Further studies and staring will be necessary. But when my time comes, I’m aiming high. I’m aiming for chocolate apples. I’m aiming for Eero.


*Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets strikes again!


9 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

Wow! Eero doesn't even sound human! If he doesn't grow up to become a Michelin stared chef, I'll be amazed!!!

And talking of chocolate apples, there is always the 'chocolate pudding fruit' (Diospyros digyna), which I believe is grown in Hawaii where it is known as the black persimmon. It is the size of a small apple and under it's green skin has flesh which is soft, sweet, and dark-chocolate coloured! It doesn't taste of much though.

Another fruit which intrigues me is the custard apple, which has white flesh which is supposed to have a sweet/sour flavour reminiscent of bananas and pineapples. Oh, the joy of fruit!

1:04 AM, January 19, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly, I love this kid already and that platter is gorgeous! Viv

3:43 AM, January 19, 2005  
Blogger Pusekatt said...

What a gourmet baby! Wow, I think at that age I was happy eating a mashed banana, hehe.
The nibbles sounded delicious...I adore salmon.
I will be on the lookout for the name Eero as a future chef...
BTW, any progress on the Dukkah?

3:06 PM, January 20, 2005  
Blogger Pusekatt said...

What a gourmet baby! Wow, I think at that age I was happy eating a mashed banana, hehe.
The nibbles sounded delicious...I adore salmon.
I will be on the lookout for the name Eero as a future chef...
BTW, any progress on the Dukkah?

3:06 PM, January 20, 2005  
Blogger dave said...

Pretty adventurous kid. My 22-month old had pasta w/ sweet italian sausage in tomato sauce, a handful of roasted soybeans, an apple and some raisins last night. This array was a little unusual, she usually likes things uncooked. But, her preferences change daily.

3:59 AM, January 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, your Royal Blogness, for dining with us. You Are Wonderful!
Thomas, Jenny and Eero

9:56 PM, January 21, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Mark, any idea where I can get my hands on a custard apple? The name alone is pretty dreamy...

And Viv, yes, wouldn't you say it's something about *Seattle*? I mean, really.

Pusekatt, no progress yet on the dukkah, I'm sorry to report. It's been a busy week. Sigh. I've really got to get my priorities in order.

Dave, your 22-month-old sounds like quite the champ herself! It must be fun to watch her tastes change, although I imagine it might also be frustrating? Since I was something of a food scaredy-cat (or at least not very fun about food) as a kid, I think my father would be *thrilled* to see me now. I'm sure your daughter is on her way...

And Thomas, Jenny, and wee Eero, YOU are wonderful. I hope the leftovers were tasty...

11:18 PM, January 21, 2005  
Anonymous JULIA said...

MOLLY!!!
wow! i recently discovered orangette... i am so pleased!!! i have spent hours reading your past entries + recipes. i love your blog! if you come to spain, let me know, we'll do lunch!!!
-julia

10:00 AM, March 19, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Thanks, Julia! So glad you found my Orangette. And as for Spain, I've been itching to get over there! Mmmm...

9:28 AM, March 20, 2007  

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