When my kids were little and the weather was hot, I used to forget about making any kind of meal. Instead, I'd get out the cutting board and compost bucket, and stand at the kitchen table chopping up fruit. The kids would cluster around, eating fruit as I worked, smooshing the chunks of watermelon all over their faces and underneath their feet, and by the time I was done, they would be full – and I'd have a container of fruit salad to put in the refrigerator for later. All of us would end up sticky with fruit juice so then we would go outside to the little wading pool, leaving behind a sticky kitchen table that would later attract all kinds of ants.
I never had the patience to supervise a bunch of small children using sharp knives so I did all the cutting up. I can remember thinking, though, of how nice it would be when the kids were old enough to help.
I thought of this the other night as I stood at my kitchen table and cut up fruit: a whole watermelon, several cantaloupes, mangoes, big bags of grapes, several quarts of strawberries, pints of blueberries, pints of raspberries, a dozen kiwi, a pineapple, a bag of cherries, enough fruit to fill a couple of grocery bags. The gang of teenagers who were intently playing music would stop on occasion to wander over and grab some fruit. Teenagers eat more neatly than toddlers but they also eat alarming quantities so I had to chop fruit pretty fast to make any sort of progress. In the end, I was left with one small container of fruit salad.
What I can't figure out is how I somehow went from having toddlers who couldn't use sharp knives to teenagers who are busy jamming with their friends. Surely, there should have been a golden age somewhere in between where my children happily did all the chopping and cutting while I sat in front of the fan with a good book, looking up when they came over to put grapes into my mouth. The funny thing is that I somehow seemed to have missed that stage altogether.