Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lost and found, strange fruit, and poinsettia.

Meeting up with Iso and Princeling for a coffee and and walk this morning, I took a jar each of the summer's red mirabelle jam and the aforementioned marmalade, and a card.  The small boy nosed in the bag, and showed no disappointment that it wasn't anything he could enjoy right away; he stroked the glossy wrapping paper tops I put on the jam jars to his face and kissed the card when his mum showed him the message inside.  The toy shop with the old fashioned pedal cars next door was still a draw, however, so I left Iso and Tom to finish their coffee and took him in with an offer to buy him a Christmas present.

He was very good, not demanding or acquisitive at all, and seemed mostly happy to look and pick up and move on, and uncertain about choosing.  The rather expensive wooden toys that one always suspects are designed as much for adults' aesthetic sense as a child's amusement got a cursory once over, but anyway seemed too young and simple for him now.  Better were the realistic and detailed good quality plastic models of animals and figures.  Dinosaurs were popular of course, but also a rather horrid skeletal dragon, and zoo type animals; farmyard horses, cattle elicited little interest.  In the end he settled happily for a clear oblong plastic tube with a collection of small zoo animals in it. which seemed particularly satisfying because it had a small elephant like the big one he'd picked up from the shelf.

He bore it proudly back to the café, but cheerfully refrained from opening it when the offer of a walk round the park was made.  Once there, he still wanted to carry the new toys, but on seeing the things to climb on and space to run in, he laid the tube carefully on a low wall, rushed off and forgot all about it.  Tom picked it up and slipped it into his coat pocket for safe keeping, but didn't say anything.

Half way around the lake, a good half kilometer on he looked up and asked 'Dinosaurs?'.  No, said his mum, your dinosaurs are at home.  But something was clearly dawning on him. 

'Do you mean your animals you had?' I asked.  He nodded. 

'What did you do with them?  Did you leave them on the wall?'

His arm went up, pointing across the lake, and a three-year-old's knowledge of time and distance slowly began to make a desolation of his face.  There was no petulance, no peremptory fix-things-for-me-now demand, just a growing awareness that he had made a mistake, brought down a loss on himself and there might be no undoing it, it might be too late. He began to crumple, held out his arms toward his mother and went to bury his face in her body.  

This all took place in the second or two it took for Tom to take the tube out of his pocket, and hold it out to him.

The clouds cleared from the face of the sun, but he walked along beside Tom for a moment or two and looked up at him from under his eyebrows with a look which was part gratitude, part embarrassment, and just the merest smidgin of mistrust.


The mention of the word 'bletted' the other day introduced the subject of medlars.  Every week I drive past a medlar tree, which has been dropping quite large quantities of the fruit, which with the early  frosts and snows, I surmised might be in the required, half-rotted state for consumption.  Today I stopped and picked a couple up - it belongs to a private house but it looked as if no one was collecting it, the dropped fruit was on the road side, and the place looked fairly deserted anyway.  I was merely curious, frankly the idea of eating giant rotted rosehips seemed a fairly unattractive one.  But I brought them home, checked 'Food for Free' and on its instructions, scooped out the brown squishy flesh, a surprisingly large amount, mixed it with a little cream, and ate it just so.  The verdict: absolutely delicious.  I may have to go back and knock on the door.

Also, when googling to learn more, I found a rather smashing blog of an aficionado of the fruit ( and more besides), called Medlar Comfits ( the link to a post with the eponymous recipe).

As you see, they don't look much, but that only goes to show.  Incidentally, shown above also, the smallest wooden-handled knife, a kitchen favourite which dates from a trip to the Loire Valley about 15 years ago, where I bought it to cut up mushrooms grown in caves there.  It is very fine and sharpens well.

While we're on strange fruit, don't bother with these.

I think they're called horny melons ( OK, maybe I am angling for stats from sad people googling...).  They look interesting but taste like mildly fruity frogspawn.  Not very nice.


Finally, poinsettia.  I've never had one of these before.   They are a kind of euphorbia, or spurge.  I like things like this and hydrangeas, with leaves that pretend to be flowers.  I think I may have killed it with over-watering.   Mea culpa.


Anonymous said...

Lucy, love the medlar anecdote - I've never heard of them. And I'd like to borrow that sweet boy.

Are poinsettia a huge Christmas tradition there? They are here. . . you can't go anywhere in December without seeing them. Rather than throwing them out after the season, my mother keeps hers year-round, watering them and covering them at some point (for something like eight weeks, I believe?) because they need total darkness in order to turn red again in the winter.

Rouchswalwe said...

Ah, an afternoon spent with a 3-year old. How wonderful. Thank you for taking me along, sweet Lucy!

Zhoen said...

Have seen those spiky ugli fruit in the grocery store, never tried them, thanks for the warning.

Good on Tom for the rescue, but not stealing the lesson from the child. The lesson was far more important than the toy, but the toy was desired as well.

the polish chick said...

lovely tale. unfortunately he seems outnumbered by the demanding petulant types.

i've never heard of a medlar and now i'm craving one.

i suspect that some of these exotic fruit are harvested before they are truly ripe. i think that in their natural habitat, sun-ripened and picked fresh, they might actually be quite delicious...or not.

Barrett Bonden said...

A significant moment - one of many - in a child's life, confirmation that adults can resolve even the most difficult problems. The more sombre moment (and let's hope it's postponed for a good while yet) is when he discovers they can't. Your visit to the toy-shop evoked mornings in St Jean de la Blaquière when I'm alone with Zach en route to the boulangerie and there's the opportunity to notice details of his precipitate rush towards becoming grown-up.

Dale said...

Well, that's wonderful.

glenn said...

I grew a horny melon plant years ago, also called kiwano. Like you say of the fruit, don't bother growing it. It struggled and the fruit didn't taste of anything but I concede it looked like something out of a fantasy book.

Dick said...

The first account is touching: how many times have I pocketed the neglected item, only to produce it like Paul Daniels at the first hint of bereavement! No mistrust with mine (because they are), but now the assumption that I'm able to find all lost artifacts behind an ear!

And the medlar information is fascinating. And beautifully illustrated.