Sunday, 8 May 2011

You Say Tomato, I Say Red Ball Of Ketchup Ingredient

To quote Toddler’s current hero, Berk from Trap Door: sniff that! Phwoar.

I’ve just finished potting on (moving seedlings from an incubator to larger tubs, city slickers) a bunch of tomato plants. A fortnight ago they were seeds. Now they’re sprouty, hairy and green. And boy do they smell good!

What is it about certain smells? Why is the whiff of tomatoes, or cut grass for that matter, a positive one?

Toddler is in the habit of sniffing plants and flowers but I’ve yet to see her really react to any distinctive smell.

Maybe when she’s older she will associate the smell of fresh, room temperature tomatoes will her dad’s potterings. For me it’s just a nice aroma, like ground coffee beans or napalm in the morning.

This is our first year with an allotment; last year Wife-features had good results growing tatties in a sack and our window ledges were clarted with tomato plants that at one point had to be tied up for fear they were taking over the building like an armada of fruity Triffids.

The taste of both was unbeatable. I simply don’t get it - why would you pay good money for some red balls of semi-frozen tasteless water that have been flown thousands of miles and wrapped in plastic? Supermarket shopping is weird. But it’s how we’re brought up in our consumer society. Personally I’d rather we binned algebra and metaphysical poetry at school and instead taught kids how to grow a spud. Maybe schools do.

I’ll soon find out - Toddler will be a teenager in the blink of an eye.

A fond childhood memory I have is raiding the pea farm near where I grew up in East Lothian. I recall me and my buddy Jamie crawling Commando-style through the fields and picking a sackful of tiny green spheres of savoury delight. (If you think my verbiage is odd, spare a thought for journalists who often labour under the impression they can’t use they same word twice in a paragraph. For example, a story about bananas will start off with “A new survey says bananas are good for you.” Followed by “The curved yellow fruit…” I know one hack who wrote a story about capercaillie, the second line of which spoke of “the turkey-sized bird”.)

I think we made ourselves sick eating our ill-gotten peas. Maybe we should have cut them with little green balls of plasticine and sold them on to desperate friends at a huge mark up.

I remember a bag of pea pods being a regular snack. I bet these days if a group of kids gathered in a playground and agreed to do one-for-one with their play pieces most of them would be happy swapping different flavours of Monster Munch or McCowan’s Highland Toffee (my knowledge of playground foods may need updating) but I bet punches would be thrown if little Darius offered wee Tyler a f***ing pea!

I also have memories of eating raw white turnip as a snack. But maybe my family was having a laugh.

Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed has her good days and bad days when it comes to eating sensible food. She can still wolf a kipper and the other day scoffed three homemade plaice fingers. Broccoli seems to have been a fad, sadly. But I’ve never known her to refuse a pear.

We were out for lunch the other day - Wife-features had to look away a couple of times and suppress her gag reflex when TWMBO started bolting down whole pats of butter (other toddlers do it, so I’m told) like Homer - and across the street the local pizza/kebab emporium was packed to the gunwales with blue jumpers. Was it some sort of Guinness Record attempt? There wasn’t a McWhirter in sight and it was 1pm.

It seemed most of 2nd year from the local academy was in there loading up on grease.

I turned to TWMBO and in all seriousness warned her I wouldn’t stand for her waddling a few steps from her school gates and pushing chips in her face at lunchtime. It’s a lovely day; why the heck aren’t they all sitting on the playing field eating cheese sandwiches before a game of football I wondered out loud. I did however offer a caveat to my paternal order. If the fast food was outwith a five mile radius it would be acceptable. A twenty minute bike ride to get a fatty lunch followed by another twenty minute cycle back to school? It all balances out. Maybe that’s what that burger van in the lay-by at Brodie is all about.

Anyway, the real crunch will come with a slurp this summer. Tomatoes. Sorry, red balls of ketchup ingredient. Toddler’s never been a fan. Within a few months we’re likely to have several hundred in our greenhouse. She better acquire a taste for them fast!

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