Earlier this summer, high on Vitamin D, I promised my family that we would eat at least 50% of our non-breakfast meals outdoors. Perhaps you think of picnicking as the most liberating and carefree way to eat, but there are some serious challenges: the food must be in solid form, not require refrigeration or utensils, and in our case, be safely consumed by toddlers. By August, our picnic routine had become rather stale: sandwiches, fruit, carrot sticks. Repeat.
Then one day, perhaps channeling my urge to shake things up picnic-wise, my 4-year-old started jamming the carrots sticks INTO the fruit, and to her delight, the sticks stuck! Now this isn’t a food blog; I only write about cooking when it involves feats of food architecture or engineering. But I think the four-year-old is really on to something here — you can’t deny that these carrot-and-fruit pops are very funky; they would blend in seamlessly with the most sophisticated mid-century modern decor, or perhaps be at home in a psychedelic, psilocybin-fueled disco lounge of the1970s.
Since I told Estelle she couldn’t start her own blog until she was at least six, we’re going to highlight her discovery here.
MAKE YOUR OWN PSYCHEDELIC, MID-CENTURY MODERN CARROT & FRUIT POPS
STEP ONE: Select the kind of fruit to use, as long as it is a “mushy” fruit and not a hard one. My daughter’s top three fruits were grapes, strawberries and prunes (yes, prunes). Hide the fruit from your family until the time is right, or perhaps leave a threatening note. Most family members — without knowing why — will instinctively eat the thing that you are saving up for a special project (we were making these for Estelle’s day camp picnic potluck thingy). Wash your fruit and carrots. Peel the carrots and slice them into thin sticks. The best sticks for sticking are the ones that come from the pointy bottom of the carrot — the pointier the better.
STEP TWO – GRAPES: Start with grapes, because grapes are small and slippery and take more patience. Remove grapes from their stems and push the pointy end of the carrot stick into the hole where the grape stem used to be. Push it up about 3/4 way into the grape, so that it is securely lodged but not pushing out the other end.
Repeat 47 more times:
STEP THREE – STRAWBERRIES: Take your strawberries and cut off the stems and hard white part near the stem. While it is tempting to cut the bigger strawberries in half or quarters, you must resist. You need that firm center part to hold the carrot stick in place.
Use a straw to drill a pilot hole in the center of the berry, then insert the carrot stick, penetrating about 3/4 of the way in. Meanwhile, crack a joke about “putting the straw back in strawberry”, and then ponder the lost art of pun-making.
STEP FOUR – PRUNES: Smush up your prunes with your fingers until they are soft. Then jam the carrot stick in there and mold the prune back into a pleasant shape. You may pierce the prune completely to ensure proper skewering — it actually looks kind of cool with the carrot point sticking out the top.
PRO TIP: The prune step is very sticky, so don’t plan on answering the phone or handling any important historical documents until you have completed it and washed your hands.STEP FIVE: Arrange the carrot-fruit pops lovingly on a platter. We were in a mighty hurry to get to camp on time, so we didn’t do this step very lovingly. But you get the idea.
And in review: