I don’t eat green

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Just when you think you are doing everything right because the ankle biter inhales everything on his plate, he decides to sprout his authority one evening and say “I don’t eat green.” This coming from the mouth who has curated a fine palate for gorgonzola DOP and Cropwell Bishop Nottinghamshire blue. Don’t get me started on the olives (incidentally a briny green). But anyways, there always comes a day when anything resembling a vegetable gets pushed back. All I can do is push the plate back with a smattering of grapes (a translucent green) or blueberries or rice and soy until this green resistance (obviously aimed at Genus vegetablis) subsides.

So this week’s book, not coincidentally, is a celebration of food. Nikki McClure produces a stunning picture book about local farm fresh food sold by its growers. To Market, To Market follows a mother and her son as they shop at their local market day. They visit stalls selling apples, kale, smoked salmon, honey, blueberry turnovers, napkins and cheese. The story ends with a market feast around the home table with friends and family. The beauty of this book is two-fold. Firstly, Nikki McClure’s paper cut imagery is mesmerising. Each product on the list is showcased in one unmistakeable hue. Secondly, the provenance of each product is shared on a separate page: of how salmon is smoked and cloth napkins dyed. Each mini story ends with a gracious thank you.

Anklebiter 1 liked this book because let’s face it, he’s a closet foodie. For as far as I can remember, he does this thing where he picks food off the page, pops it in his mouth and savours it. For this story, he doesn’t understand why there is blueberry filling spilling from the turnovers or what kale is. But he certainly appreciates the  ‘crunchy apples’ and  the ‘goat making cheese.’ Insert fingers scooping up imaginary food.

I like it because it does bring to the forefront the slow food movement and emphasises that food doesn’t simply show up on grocery chain store shelves.There is a celebration linking people with their food (for example: here, here and here). Local is good but local doesn’t necessarily mean family-owned farms or organic. Although I am a bit weary of how local food has somehow transformed itself into ‘artisanal’. When has grown local, invest in farmers, no mangoes don’t grow year round become cult? It should be the norm and not in the hands of the elite. I refer the non-anklebiters to be inspired by David Mas Masumoto (who I heard speak so eloquently in Las Vegas of all things). Knowing where our food originates and eating with the seasons nourishes our own bodies and sustains local livelihoods. Just for awhile, farmers of green things, I’ve supporting the other colours.

[Sources: top, Getty Images, below, To Market, To Market by Nikki McClure]

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You gonna eat your tots?

“Tina you fat lard” HA! I googled “eat the food” and the charm of Napoleon Dynamite popped up. A GIF for you to either chuckle reminiscently or screen the movie promptly. You see, yesterday Ankle biter 2 devoured brussels sprouts. Devoured, to everyone’s surprise! So much so Ankle biter 1 started fishing into the brussels sprouts bowl. He admirably entertained one. Everyone struggles with trying to get their kids to eat, let alone eat something healthy. Ankle biter 1 was a dream and ate everything. Growth spurts, however, are currently erm  refining his palate. He wants the gloppiness and the dessert of puddings and trifles that they serve at daycare. (Don’t get me started! I’ll talk about that some other time).The ankle biters have never had a problem with fruits. Bless you natural sugar high. I’ll admit that moving from a foodie mecca has certainly  depressed the opportunities to purchase affordably the vibrancy of the seasons. Yea, there are farmer’s markets but I just miss the green grocer.

Access to local and seasonal food should be an urban planning requirement and not just a voluntary enterprise. We can start by growing where we are.  To introduce such a concept to the anklebiters, I bring this week’s book offering, Grow your own: A yummy story about growing (and eating!) your own food by Esther Hall. The book begins with a boy, Sidney, and his mum in living a drab grey existence in a nondescript city. The mum drops Sid at his grandma’s country house for the summer. During this time Sid is put to work in the garden and he learns to feast off the land (e.g. broccoli, beans, carrots, strawberries). The story ends with Sid, his mum and grandma continuing the fruit and veg escapades in the city via a fresh food delivery service. Each page diffuses a vibrant colour palette. A light-hearted story about working the land and living off of it as well as connections among generations.

Ankle Biter 1 loved the story solely for the pages about the runner beans.  Sid helps to pick and prepare beans and is told that beans are full of energy and will help him to run fast.

Sid certainly felt faster and there was definitely something a bit windy about him.

He loved providing the sound effects for the page. Whatever works, hey? He also likes to pretend to pick and eat the strawberries from the pages as well. I enjoy this book because it makes that connection between land and food. It suggest that direct experience in growing can change our attitudes towards food. WE must start somewhere, it might as well be now. Oh, and vote for Pedro.

[GIF by: 9 Best ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ Lines That We Still Use Today (with GIFs!)]

In search of an adventure

It is the silly season in Australia. It’s gloriously sunny and the country has shut down in celebration: picnics, bbqs, water play, elbow exercise. Lucky the people in the Southern Hemisphere! For the rest of us, we have hunkered down and huddled by the fire. The Christmas jingles bring joy, I think, solely to make this wintry front seem festive. This family still kits up to head outside but it just takes so. much. longer. Dashing through the snow, indeed.

So I’d like to pop this icicle wonderland and bring you this week’s book about frolicking in the sun: Tom and Millie’s Great Big Treasure Hunt by Guy Parker Rees. (Never you mind that An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison has been on rotation). Two cats, Tom and Millie have a “list of very important things to find”. They recruit their friends (e.g. Sarah the bunny, Toby the monkey) to find these things leading them on an adventure through the beach, a playground, a party shop downtown, a play centre, and a farmer’s market. At each stop, there is a flurry of people and activity. Picking up clues along the way, this gang of adventurers uncovers an outdoor treasure at the very end. Incidentally, the clues are an exercise in shape and colour recognition. There’s a cast of characters to follow along at the start of the book should you tire of reading to create your own stories.

Ankle Biter 2 is at that glorious stage where he just wants to be ever so helpful or perhaps demonstrate his id (i.e. I Know). “Where is Tom?” “There he is!” “Where are the four orange triangles?” As his head lobs up and over the page, “There they are!” His favourite page was the farmer’s market. From the tractor, to the variety of fruits and the tray of eggs, winner! A feast in his eyes. For me, I picked it up because of the autonomous adventures throughout the neighbourhood. This is one of the first books I’ve come across that has featured a farmer’s market. I miss the green grocer and I think Ankle Biter 1 also misses touching fruit and veg. (The supermarkets here like the hermetic seal). *Spoiler* the gang of adventurers’ clues lead them to a summer fair: a dreamy example of celebration and urban kindness in the sun. I am delighted to see that both destinations are included in the navigation of children’s spaces. They should be and I’d like to see more represented. Ahhh, let’s continue our urban imagined come rain or sun.

Source: Guy Parker Rees: Picture Books

Five distractions to start your weekend

Source: Tasmanian Government

1.1 meters = a safe buffer in urinals as well as when passing cyclists on roads in Tasmania

Albert Heijn, a supermarket chain in Amsterdam started INSTOCK, a restaurant using excess food from the grocery store

Imagine, cycling rather than vehicular traffic in Copenhagen

“Perch & Repair” drones being created by the Uni of Leeds to  repair potholes

How we have lost touch with nature in that picking apples is a novelty?

Things that go bump in the night

Ankle biter 1’s finger dexterity is coming into its own and thus this week’s book reflects such tactility. For someone who likes to tear library books (not that we’re counting but our local has been the recipient of three brand spanking new replacements), it’s a marvel that this book with its many flaps teasing to be torn remains unscathed. Night time by Anna Milbourne and Simona Dimitri is a gorgeous reflection of what happens across the urban landscape as the moon rises. Sturdy and vibrant, two page spreads entice little ones to seek the mystery behind windows, doors, lampposts, leaves, train carriages, and market cellars. Although highlighting the work of city residents, bakers, cafes and fresh food vendors, this book also showcases the vivacity of nocturnal animals such as owls, foxes and bats. It introduces a world existing beyond the confines of ankle biter’s slumber and ends as dawn ascends.

At night, when the moon is up and the stars are twinkling all the streets are quiet. Is everybody fast asleep?

A true book for when the lights go out and bedtime beckons. It makes night time a little less ominous. I enjoyed this book because although it narrates that the day is ‘noisy and busy’, it depicts the necessity of evening labour required for a thriving city. Sure, it doesn’t illustrate the fluoro lights of what Jaime Lerner respects as the Unknown 24-hour Shopkeeper: shops that  “not only offer infinite shelves of merchandise but also enliven whole neighbourhoods by literally lighting up countless dreary street corners.”  But the images of this book do connect readers with relationships between the natural and the manmade: from the similarities of glow worms and train track workers to the transportation of fresh food to the markets. It shares the hustle and bustle that creates what I consider an urban I’d like my ankle biters to understand confidently.

Ankle biter 1 liked imprinting his world onto the surprises awaiting beneath the flaps. Within the first window, he noticed that he and ankle biter 2 were “not sleeping.” He saw “daddy riding his bike with a light.” He wanted to know why the rats were hiding. He obviously lingered on the double spread with the trains. “Why are oranges going for a ride?” Thank you for the lil soap box segue about fruits growing on trees and the importance of eating with the seasons. “Yum” (as he pretend picks a strawberry from the market on the next page). This book just keeps giving.

A video and five links to start your weekend

This NIMBY is self-interest redirected: go buy a mountain

World Food Day

With drinking straw in hand, Anna Hepler, you take my breathe away

Taxi Fabric weaves a story of Mumbai

What US$1 and a dream can buy in Chicago, thank you Theaster Gates.