Children pretty much love food and love to eat. Grownups are great at over-thinking them out of it: ‘Ooh, that’s too peppery, you won’t like it, Jimmy!’ ‘Oh, no, Suzie can’t have oysters; they’re too strange for a four-year-old’s taste!’ ‘I’m pretty sure Elmo is allergic to that stuff, ’cause he made a face when he tasted it the first time, so we’ll be sure to keep him safely away from it!’ Not to mention, ‘Are you kidding, let that six year old have truffles shaved onto her pasta???’ And then we wonder why “kids are such picky eaters”. Duhhh.The natural curiosity and openness of children should be encouraged (okay, up to a point, Lord Copper), and the people I’ve known with Good Eaters in the family simply tended to let nature take its course and give their kids whatever opportunity and exposure they could. Setting an example goes so much further than any amount of teaching and preaching. That goes not just for eating but for learning about all aspects of food, from its historic and cultural origins to how it’s raised and prepared, and how the young’uns themselves can participate in the process. The more the exposure is filled with fun and delight, the better the odds for success.
That’s how one of our nephews discovered when he was quite little that he loved the taste of that marvelous vegetable with the poisonous leaves whose super-acidic stalks have been used raw in traditional Chinese pharmacology as a laxative: rhubarb. Fortunately our nephew was, as were most of us, introduced to rhubarb, or “woobibe,” as he called it, not in its medicinal form but in its delectable sweetened-and-cooked form that tames its acid, and so fell immediately in love with the changeling vege-fruit. He admired it so much that he got his grandmother to get him started cultivating the stuff, which he still does, happily. [Yes, that's some of his beautiful rhubarb below.]It just so happens that I’m a big ol’ fan of rhubarb too. I adore it in sauce, pie, jam, tapioca pudding, chutney, and roasted and candied and simmered, and-and-and. But then, I grew up surrounded by not only good cooks but very much in the midst of people who respected and enjoyed and gave thought to and were grateful for their food. All of which made me the fan-girl I generally am in my medium-old age. Happy places to be, both the medium-old age and the fandom.You up-and-comers, middle-agers and glorious geezers all–and of course I consider myself to be each and every one of those as well, depending upon the moment–I bid you to take such comestible comeliness as the magnificent rhubarb, the sizzling hot pepper or the tantalizing truffle with all of the seriousness and happy enthusiasm they deserve. Especially when the kids are watching.
Rhubarb-Beetroot Chutney [Not bad at all as a relish for nice fat stuff like a scrumptious grilled cheese sandwich or a hunk of juicy grilled salmon or buttery seared lamb chops.]
Combine approximately equal amounts of peeled and cubed fresh beets, 1″-cut fresh rhubarb pieces, and sugar with just enough water to start the sugar melting a little, plus a couple of whole cloves and a cinnamon stick and a tiny pinch of salt. Bring it all up gradually to a simmer and then let it cook gently over low to moderate heat for a nice long time until it melts and thickens together. Pull out the cloves and cinnamon stick, and puree all the goodness into a nice mash. Keep cooking if it isn’t jammy enough. Adjust to your own exquisitely fine-tuned personal taste and enjoy.
Now, please don’t fuss with this “recipe” any more than absolutely necessary; only if it’s really rather easy and fun to make does it taste appropriately yummy. Extra bonus points if you bring a nice small person or two along for the preparation and savoring, because you will have a happy fellow diner for life. You’re welcome.