Morning finds her curled like a prawn
Around a stuffed blue Pegasus, or the smallest
Prawn-pink lion. Or else she’s barging
Into my room, and leaning in close so
It’s her hair I wake to — that coarse, dark
Heaven of knots and purple fluff.
She wants a movie, or maybe
Just the tussle of her will against mine,
That scrape and crack. Horn on rock. Rope
Relenting one fiber at a time. ‘I want that,’ she says,
Punctuating what she just said she wanted.
– from ‘4½’ by Tracy K. Smith
Neither of our children are four-and-a-half. T has only just turned four, and W is almost six. I remember when they were babies, both of them perpetually curled into me – their tiny hands and translucent half-moon fingernails. Everything smelt of breastmilk and sweat and the coconut oil that we rubbed onto their fat thighs and soft bellies. At night I would roll over and there was always a baby there, eyelids flickering, and what could they be dreaming of?
These days our children are a force of nature – like all children everywhere, I suppose. Limbs flying and energy fizzing and imaginations full to the brim. This morning in the predawn they knelt side by side staring out of the lounge room window weaving stories of elves and dragons and bats. I can see the purple dragon flying down the street! When Sarah finishes her yoga she’ll open the door and the fire elf can come visit! Tonight they swung side by side in the rainbow-coloured hammock I brought home with me from Colombia a lifetime ago, singing jumbled up songs to the night sky.
Last week I was feeling rundown and so instead of spending our Wednesday off at the park or the library or on some such errand, the kids and I stayed in our pyjamas all day and watched Mary Poppins in bed. Not this new-fangled version, but the one that I loved as a child. And I loved it still. The mystery of the carpet bag, the magical world of drawings (something we’d all do well to remember), the delight of twilight dancing among the rooftops (Chim Chim Cheree was always my favourite), the strange melancholy of Feed The Birds, a feeling that I never had a word for as a kid. There were new things to enjoy too, things I couldn’t appreciate decades ago – Though we adore men individually / We agree that as a group they’re rather stupid!
It’s all just time in the end – time, and the way that we spend it. The kids of course drive us crazy in that battle of wills that Tracy K. Smith writes of above with more beauty than I ever could. But time is what we have and sometimes time is best spent learning how to read or cleaning your room – or telling dragon stories and watching movies in bed in the middle of the day.
Time eating is, of course, always time well spent. The kids are somewhat picky eaters, but they are also appreciative of the pleasures of cooking, of baking, of planning and sharing a meal. This salad is one that I planned in my mind for ages after the purple-skinned passionfruit began appearing heaped into piles in the market. And then the first time I made it, it came off just as I had imagined. The backbone of this salad is, of course, the passionfruit. The sweet/sour tang plays off the the fresh mint and the toast-y coconut just beautifully. The rice and the vegetables provide some body and it all comes together to taste just like summer-in-a-bowl should taste.
Black Rice & Passionfruit Salad
This is a really beautiful summer meal – either as a side dish or on its own. Feel free to replace the kale & carrots with whatever you have on hand; green beans, fresh peas, spring onion, thinly sliced nectarine, broccolini, you get the idea. Also, slices of grilled pineapple alongside would be ace, just sayin’.
3/4 cup black rice
1 bunch kale
6 dutch carrots
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup coconut flakes, toasted
1 tsp maple syrup
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + more to cook
Salt & pepper, to taste
Rinse the rice and cook according to the instructions on the packet (one part rice to one-and-a-half parts cold water; bring to the boil, cover and turn down to a simmer until all water is absorbed and the rice is tender). Rinse the cooked rice in a colander and leave to drain.
De-stem the kale and shred the leaves. Top and tail the carrots then cut into rounds about a cm thick. Heat a splash of oil in a shallow pan over a high heat and throw in the kale and carrots. Cook for about about six minutes, tossing regularly so the vegetables don’t burn. Remove from the heat.
Roughly chop/tear the mint leaves.
In a small bowl/jar mix together the oil, the lime juice and the maple syrup. Cut both passionfruit in half, scoop out the insides and add to the dressing (juice and all). Whisk thoroughly.
In a large bowl combine the rice, vegetables, mint and three-quarters of the toasted coconut flakes. Add the dressing and toss through. Serve topped with the rest of the coconut flakes.
Serves: 4 – 6