Thursday, June 14, 2012

At the farmers' market... for bites of summer

I love love love farmers’ markets. I feel at home in them. Their atmosphere says so much about their location. Being at a farmers’ market somewhere in the world, I feel I can get a sense of the place in general, of its people, its culture, its idiosyncrasies. It’s just enough to feel like I have an idea of what it is like to live there, for just a moment. The atmosphere at a market in Paris, Aubagne, Barcelona, Tokyo or Bali is completely different, and yet they have something in common. A sense of community perhaps? Or just simply the universal need (and love) for food.

Far from Bali, there’s the little Sherman Oaks Farmers' market, a few blocks away from our house, a nice stroller outing on Tuesday afternoons. It’s the little market that could. Yes, we are in Los Angeles: we have to walk past a freeway on-ramp, go underneath an overpass and breathe in that smog that gives us such lovely sunsets, to get to the market set up on the overflow parking lot of a giant mall. But it is peach season, and we need peaches. Among other things. So off we go.

As we walk on the lookout for anything with wheels – an absolute fascination for Pablo - I encounter this bit of grass covered with purple petals… from jacaranda trees (I finally found out the name of that tree for this post!). Those are the little gems of Los Angeles. Sometimes, the best views are either up close or far in the distance, not so much in midrange. Like in difficult times in life, I suppose. You only get through those by either living in the moment (which children are so wonderful at), or dreaming far ahead – or a bit of both. Sure, just outside that shot, there are trash cans and abandoned front yards of foreclosed houses. But in the distance, there are clouds over the Hollywood hills. And up close, there is purple. I needed purple today.

Riding on that purple… we arrive at the market. It is small, the selection is somewhat limited. But there are lots of peaches, plums, apricots and cherries. It’s the heart of the season. I’m excited. And Pablo is too!

I know from what I’ve written so far, one might think Pablo just eats everything. And well, it’s pretty much true. But it sometimes takes him a few tries. Just a couple of weeks ago, I gave him an apricot for the first time (he was too young last year). He put it his mouth, because he can’t help himself. Spat it right out. Weird texture. Not what he was expecting. Ok. We’ll try again. And again. I have faith in the apricot.

Well, it took the Farmer’s market, and the nice man selling apricots, to do it! When the man handed him, personally, an apricot, Pablo was so proud and delighted. He tasted it, touched it and held it like his most prized possession all the way back home!  It made me think the love for food goes far beyond our taste buds. At the outset, there’s taste, then texture, smell, feel. And then there’s the whole experience around it. That is why I love farmers’ markets: a place to experience food.  But back to taste buds...

Peaches have been the highlights of the goûter (afternoon snack) recently. Mostly just plain and simple. Juicy bites of summer. (Can you feel the juice dripping down your chin?)

But this afternoon, we experimented on that theme… mixing up a slightly overripe peach with wonderfully fragrant mint from my beloved topsy-turvy. Pablo picked the mint himself, and chewed on it happily! I guess the kid likes mint… and peaches. Let’s mix them up then.

So I give him an apricot to get started (he spits out a cookie to attack the apricot… happy mommy), while I mix up a peach with a few leaves of mint.

 I take a few pictures, give him the mixture, and then…

… he takes it upon himself to dip the apricot in the peach-mint compote….
Mint. Yum. Apricot. Yum. Peach with mint. Double yum. Add some apricot. Pablo heaven.  

Peach & mint raw compote

(Age note: I started Pablo on raw fruit – berries, pear, kiwi, banana - around 7-8 months. Before that, for all compotes, I steamed the fruit and mixed it with some cooking juices to make it very smooth.)

1 peach
5-6 leaves of mint
Apricot optional!

Wash, peel, cut up and mix! Depending on your processor, this can make a fairly chunky compote, so make sure your little one can handle little chunks of fruit (which can easily be gummed down)
For fun – add some apricots to the mix (no need to peel them)

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