Last week, I had one of my proudest moments as a gardener and a dad. I was in the kitchen preparing a tomato salad when I realized I had forgotten to pick some fresh basil . I called out to my 2-almost-3-year-old daughter who was outside playing on the deck.
I said, “Could you please go down to the garden and pick me some basil leaves?”
It looked like she was about to say no (the terrible twos will often produce this response), but I could see her gears turning. She thought about it and realized that, yes, she could do it. She replied with a simple, “Sure,” and then disappeared from the deck and went out to the garden. I could have easily gone myself, but I was also cooking pasta and vegetables and didn’t want to leave the stove unattended. A few minutes later, she was at the door with a fistful of basil leaves, perfect and green.
I’m not sure I can fully articulate why I am so proud of her, but let me try: She didn’t need any other instruction beyond “please go get some basil.” I know plenty of adults who would need very specific instructions to perform this simple task. My daughter, on the other hand, knows what basil is, knows where it is growing in the garden, and knows about how much I need for tomato salad.
She loves to help. And by giving her simple but somewhat challenging tasks, I’m able to help strengthen her confidence and develop her problem-solving skills. The space between the kitchen and the garden may just be the perfect classroom .
Here’s our family’s recipe for a simple tomato salad:
3 or 4 good-sized tomatoes
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
6 basil leaves
½ cup of a good extra-virgin olive oil
Chop everything up and mix it together, adding the olive oil and salt last. Obviously, the amount of ingredients can be scaled up or down, depending on your taste. I like to use a variety of tomatoes different colors, shapes, flavors, etc.
Serve with good crusty bread. It’s perfect for dipping. Be sure to refrigerate the leftovers; this salad seems to taste even better once all the flavors mix together overnight. Just let it return to room temp before serving.