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Before Christmas, The Unicorn came home with a narcissus bulb in a lovely pottery dish.
“You know that hipster coffee shop over near the barber?” he asked. “They had a pop-up flower stand there today. The woman said this bulb will flower by Christmas.”
“I’m sorry,” I replied. “Did you say…pop-up flower stand?”
What can I say? Oakland knows how to bring the hipster thunder. Only they probably don’t call it thunder. They probably call it reverberation+air.
We set the pottery container in our living room, and both of us swore to keep it watered. But, as it turns out, the only living thing we are really good at nurturing right now is The Pickle.
“Does the narcissus need water?” The Unicorn asked me one day.
“I’ve been meaning to give it water for days,” I replied. Of course, I would only have time to really look at the bulb while I was sitting there nursing The Pickle, which is a totally inconvenient time to remember that something across the room needed some non-milk liquid, and then, by the time The Pickle was burped and ready to move on to something new, I’d completely forgotten about the poor bulb.
“I get it,” said The Unicorn, who was experiencing the same issue while sitting in the same chair when he gave The Pickle the occasional bottle.
Suffice it to say, the bulb’s existing sprouts were only slightly more pronounced by the time we hit Christmas, though the roots had started to push out of the rocks holding them in the little pottery container. The flower was nowhere to be seen.
“Does it need to be repotted?” asked The Unicorn.
“Probably,” I replied, but again, with a new-ish baby and 27 loads of laundry to do every week, repotting the hipster narcissus was very low on my list.
Luckily, The Pickle’s aunt came to our rescue. The Unicorn asked her to repot it while she was visiting, and she gamely looked up directions on Pinterest and set about moving it to a jar that would give the roots a little more space to roam. As soon as the roots had more room to spread out (and, to be fair, as soon as we got a little better about watering it), the plant took off.
The Pickle showed vague curiousity about the bulb’s shoots, probably more because they made an interesting upward pattern than any nascent interest in gardening.
The Unicorn noted that the shoots bore a resemblance to the aging onion we were inadvertently cultivating in the kitchen.
And finally, the flower bloomed. Of course, without a stake, we now have a narcisssus that’s growing sideways instead of straight up, but it’s beautiful, regardless, all tangled roots and spring-green leaves, with its brown-tunicked bulb and a tight umbrel of white blossoms.
The Pickle is currently eating quite locally—he’s still a card-carrying Boob Vampire, with no other food in sight. But we’re just a couple of months from beginning to introduce him, one item at a time, to the world of solids.
He will be my tiny food minion. I will give him delicious things to eat and he will … well, he will probably spit them at me and throw them, but still, I am determined that the experimentation involved in teaching a tiny human how to eat will be extremely fun.
I’m envisioning starting with avocado. It’s delicious, it’s full of good fats and other nutrients that will help The Pickle grow and develop, and it’s fun to smoosh around. Plus, we can get great local avocados at our farmers market, so it even meets my eat-local sensibilities.
Before Christmas, I picked up a mess of apples from that same farmers market. I had stopped at one of the fruit stands to pick up Granny Smith apples for the pie my mother-in-law planned to make, and Pink Lady apples for me to bake for breakfast one day (Honestly, if I’d known I’d be using these apples in the way I ended up using them, I would have made a point to remember the name of the farm, but at the time, I was rushing to finish the holiday food shopping, and I didn’t take note of it, and, well, there it is).
The vendors at the fruit stand pointed me toward a crate of “ugly” Pink Ladies. “They’re absolutely delicious and great for baking,” one of them said. “But they didn’t get as pink as they need to for us to be able to sell them at full price.”
I overbought, as it turns out, because its the farmers market, and I always overbuy, and then we ended up not needing to make baked apples, so by the end of the visit, I was sitting on a fairly large bowl of less-than-Pink Ladies and some straggler Granny Smiths on my kitchen counter.
My sister-in-law volunteered to make her famous apple barbeque sauce, but even that would have only put a dent in the pile. “What if we make applesauce for The Pickle?” she asked.
And so, on one of those brilliant, temperate Northern California winter afternoons, she sat outside and peeled and chopped all the apples, then simmered a mess of them down into apple sauce. Later that night, following the trusted lead of Smitten Kitchen, I pureed the sauce in the food processor and carefully portioned it out into an unused ice cube tray for freezing.
The result is a bag of lovely cubes of applesauce, gently spiced with cinnamon and cardamom and nutmeg and ginger, because I want The Pickle to get to know different flavors as he learns about food. I don’t know exactly when we’ll let him try them, but for now they’re tucked in the freezer, awaiting the day when he’s ready. I love that I’ll be able to tell him the first food we made for him was a team effort, made from apples grown nearby and purchased just down the street.
For the past couple years, for one reason or another, I couldn’t garden. I didn’t have the space, or when I did have some space, I didn’t have the time, and then, for a good portion of this year, I wasn’t allowed to work in the dirt.
As it turns out, gardening is not recommended for pregnant women, because there’s a risk of picking up toxoplasmosis. Sure, I could have gardened, very carefully, with gloves, but it was an easy thing to continue avoiding, so, well, there it went from the list.
Yes, you heard that right. Back in September, The Unicorn and I harvested a headstrong, wonderful little boy who we call The Pickle (after all, he can be sour…or sweet), and trust me, he is totally worth giving up some home-grown tomatoes.
This lack of gardening made me consider giving up this blog entirely. I didn’t have many stories to tell about plants, though I’m still posting plenty of photos of them, and I haven’t even really been developing recipes (a practice that seems silly when there are so many great ones already kicking around the Internet).
But the reason I started this blog was not to write a cookbook, or a gardening manual, or make a bunch (ha) of money off sponsorships and ads. I started this blog to tell stories about my life through the prism of plants and cooking. To that end, in this year ahead, I plan to return to that, right here, in the place where this blogging adventure began for me. Sometimes there will be actual plants involved, and sometimes I might share a recipe or two—my own, or winners I’ve found in other places—but sometimes it will just be a story about the life I’m still cultivating here in Oakland.
However it shakes out, I hope you’ll join me for this next phase of the inadvertent adventure.