Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cute Vegetables

At certain moments in my life I bless my luck for having been born a woman, and for having a face that people seem to suspect of little sinister intent. This often happens while I am peering through a chain link fence at school children or taking digital photos of strangers' toddlers dressed up for Halloween at the park (the fat giraffes and miniature musclebound Spidey at my nieces' twins play group Halloween party two weeks ago were irresistible). No, no, these aren't moments of maternal feeling or gloating over the fact that I have the ability to grow tiny humans inside my body. I just love watching children be funny and cute with each other and I know indulging that impulse would be the source of a much greater amount of public suspicion if I were a man with a large beard or twitchy eye.

The British Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley had a sweet face and was much bolder with children than I ever am if this story I came across while reading American poet Elizabeth Bishop's collected letters is to be believed. In the postscript of a letter to Robert Lowell, who apparently wasn't so fond of these little monsters, she writes:

P.S. I really feel you should struggle against your feeling about children, but I suppose it's better than drooling over them like Swinburne. But I've always loved the stories about Shelley going around Oxford peering into baby carriages, and how he once said to a woman carrying a baby, "Madame, can your baby tell us anything of pre-existence?"

I haven't quite worked out what they say about pre-existence, but these vegetable posters decorated by the charmed little fingers of students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, which I often pass during my neighborhood strolls, tell us much about the incredible plasticity of children's minds as applied to the world of edible gardens. In the cornucopian utopia to the left, a giant carrot befriends a tiny tree whose roots are occupied with sucking up an upside down hachiya persimmon, which in turn seems to be in love with the happy-faced apple beneath it, if the heart shape that unites them is any indication. And I find myself quite taken with the mythical blue vegetable (blue hubbard squash?) that appears in the poster to the left, as well as the blue strawberry with yellow spikes in the "Garden Munchies!" tableau up top.

Let's give a hearty huzzah! to programs like the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance and the Chez Panisse Foundation's Edible Schoolyard for creating garden classrooms where city children can experience the thrill of pulling a carrot from the ground (POP!), learn why we shouldn't squash worms or ladybugs, and totally freak out about the fact that the food they put in their mouths comes from the dirt (AH! DIRT!! GROSS! SNAILS!).

Mr. Chavez looks pretty happy about the loving labor that goes into these crops.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Hey Erin / eek! Found your page a few weeks ago and have pretty well combed through the archives. In honor of vegetable harmony I picked up a bunch of locally grown organic rainbow carrots and will try out preparing their leafy greens soon. Good reading!