26 April 2013

All the Colors of the Rainbow - from The Memory Kitchen

Dear Second Grade,

Last visit we enjoyed the delicious leek fritrasses that came from my golden deed. Today I bring you another story and recipe I love well. Believe it or not, the little chefs who thought up this recipe are younger than you are, for this recipe comes from a preschool here in the garden named Lovin’ Larvae.

In case you’re not sure, larvae is a stage that many insects go through (bees and beetles do, for example) First, the insects are born as an egg, then they grow into a worm shaped larva, then, they change into what they finally will be: a butterfly, a bee, a beetle, or maybe a fly.

Last fall Lovin Larvae got a new student, a very special student by the name of Cornelius Grub. The reason Cornleius was special was that he was destined to grow into a fly. Now, you might wonder, what’s so special about that? Well, that’s part of the problem, Cornelius was a fly larva, but all the other larvae at Lovin Larvae preschool are butterfly larvae. How, you might ask, did Cornelius’ parents enroll him in the Butterfly preschool? What was wrong with the fly school? Well, Cornelius’ parents believed that children of all different types should go to school together. They didn’t like the way our garden preschools were organized for different bugs: the beetle school over by the carriage house, the moth preschool up by the Tower, the slug preschool under the agapanthus, the snail school over by the ivy… You see how it is.
Cornelius became the first fly larvae to attend Lovin Larvae. For the first couple months, it all went well. In the beginning the larvae all looked similar to one another, and they played around in the soil and swung on small vines just like any children would enjoy doing.

However, trouble began when the preschool began holding special information sessions to get their pupils ready for the change about to come. The teachers began posting pictures of lovely butterflies, with wings full of all the colors of the rainbow, around the classroom. The little larva ooohed and ahhed as they admired the posters.

As you can imagine, they were full of questions. “What butterfly will I become?” Miles wanted to know.

“Will my wings have pink and purple stripes like this butterfly?” Millicent asked.

“I want to have those pointy wing tips with black and gold shimmers” cried Ted.

“Look! I bet my wings will be large and fuzzy yellow-orange like those!” shouted Cornelius.

The teachers at Lovin Larvae overheard Cornelius’ happy yell, and looked at each other with wide, concerned eyes. They resolved to speak to Cornelius’ parents that afternoon at pick up.
When Cornelius’ parents arrived, the head teacher of Lovin Larvae took them aside. “Mr. and Mrs. Fly, it’s the time of year when Lovin Larvae puts up the butterfly photos, and begins to prepare the little larvae for the changes they’re about to go through. We do this every year and it’s proven to be very helpful for the larvae before they begin to make their cocoons. This way, they can go to sleep looking forward to what they’ll become: lovely butterflies. We have a little problem with Cornelius, however. You see, Cornelius thinks he, too, will grow lovely butterfly wings when he is grown.”

“I see.” Said Cornelius’ mother.

“I hadn’t thought about this.” Said Cornelius’ father. 
They touched their antennae together for a while and thought about what to do. When they were finished the parents said “Please, teacher, will you put up a poster of a full grown fly? We’re sure Cornelius will recognize it as his future. After all, look at us. We’re not butterflies. We are flies ourselves.”

“Certainly” the teacher replied, and the very next day there was a large photograph of a fly on the board.

When the larvae arrived at school, the teachers overheard these comments:

“What’s that?” asked Diana.

“That’s weird.” Said Jim.

“Look at its big eyes!” exclaimed Phillip.

“That’s my mom and dad, but that won’t be me!” said Cornelius, happily.

“Uh oh.” Said his teachers.

That afternoon, when Cornelius’ parents arrived at pick up, the head teacher took them aside yet again. “Cornelius doesn’t believe he’ll  become a fly. He thinks he’ll be a butterfly like everyone else.”

“Really?” said his dad and mom, incredulously.

“Really.” Said his teacher.

Time passed and Cornelius continued to believe he would roll into his cocoon and come out a butterfly just like all his friends at preschool. He daydreamed about the colors his wings might be, his biggest wish was for them to be magenta with black stripes and shimmery white dots on the wing tips. Yellow and black stripes was his second choice. His parents tried to help him see the truth, that he was on his way to becoming a fly. They tried things like standing with their arms around him in front of their big mirror, hoping he would take a good look at them and figure it out. They tried hanging all kinds of fly artwork around their home, having other fly families and their little larvae maggots over so Cornelius might pick up the news in conversation with other young kids, but whatever they tried did not work. Cornelius still talked about how he’d wake up a butterfly one day, and at school he persisted in ignoring the fly photo, and spent all his time talking butterfly with his friends. “We made a mistake with this school idea.” His parents agreed.

With his teacher’s urging, his parents finally agreed to sit Cornelius down and tell him that while his friends were getting very close to turning into butterflies, Cornelius was nearly ready to go to sleep and wake up a black, hairy fly like themselves.

“NO!” he shouted. “I’m a butterfly! Why else would I be at Lovin Larvae Preschool if I weren’t a butterfly too?! I’ve seen all those butterfly pictures, I’ve heard all the talks, I know what I’m going to be!” Cornelius’ parents hung their heads and regretted they’d ever decided to try to bring variety into the garden preschools. It really was too complicated.

Cornelius went to school the next day sad and confused. For the first time he noticed that he didn’t look the same as the other larvae children. They had suction cup feet and moved around as caterpillars, while he rolled and squirmed around. They were all shades of the rainbow, while he was a sort of clear white color. He began to worry his parents were right after all. Could he be a fly?

That morning the teachers told the students that there would be a party at lunch, a sort of get ready to hibernate party since they were all nearing their day to enter the cocoons (except Cornelius-his parents had told him that his skin would just get hard, and then he’d pop out of it as a fly after a while).  The teachers explained it would be up to the larvae to choose and make the dishes for the party. Cornelius was assigned to a group with Pauline, Sarah and Mike. Mike noticed Cornelius looked sad. “What’s wrong?” Mike inquired.

“Mike, do I look like you?” Cornelius asked softly.

“Not really, but so what?” Mike replied.

“I’m worried I’m not going to be a butterfly, Mike. That I won’t have pretty colors on my wings when I’m older.”

“Cornelius,” Mike said, “So what again. You’ll probably look like that cool, hairy black fly on the wall instead.”

“But I like the bright colors so much” wailed Cornelius. Pauline and Sarah listened. “I wanted to be all the colors of the rainbow, like you will be. Not just all one color like my mom and dad”. 

Pauline maneuvered her long body next to Cornelius’ and patted him. “Don’t worry, Cornelius. Don’t you know that you’ll always have the colors of the rainbow around you, your whole life no matter what color you are? Just look around! “ She pointed to all the greenery and flowers in this garden. Cornelius looked up and took it in. “Cornelius, just be thankful you have eyes to see the colors of the rainbow. And flies - they have especially big eyes!”

“Cornelius, look here.” Said Sarah. She was pointing to a variety of colored leaves on the table. “Let’s make a rainbow salad, Cornelius! In your honor! We’ll call it Cornelius Salad-all the colors of the rainbow!”

Cornelius looked at the pretty leaves and felt a little better. It’s true that even though he wouldn’t have his own brightly colored wings, he could at least admire others’. He smiled a little and moved to the table to help cut the leaves.

That afternoon at the party all the larvae’s parents were there. Cornelius’ group made a special presentation of their salad. Cornelius spoke: “I’m sorry I didn’t believe you, mom and dad, about my being a fly. I know that I will be a fly now, and not a beautiful butterfly. But, at least I get to see, and eat, all the colors of the rainbow. That makes a fly’s life sound pretty good to me.”

And that, dear second grade, is how this salad got its name and importance. How lucky we are to eat and see all the colors of the rainbow.

 Grandpa Sow Bug

Rainbow Salad with Raisins
serves 4
A bunch of colorful greens
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup raisins
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh-grated cheese (parmesan or similar)
Wash the chard well and let dry. Fold the leaves in half and slice away the tough stalk. Discard. Cut the leaves in half, lengthwise, then slice into fine ribbons. You should have about 4-6 cups of finely sliced chard.
Whisk the sugar, olive oil, vinegar, and orange juice together and taste. Adjust to taste and add salt and pepper.

Toss the raisins, chard and dressing all together. Distribute among individual salad bowls and sprinkle cheese on top.