Measured Extravagance

23 May 2004 - 1:51 p.m.

In my next life, should one materialize, I want to have the constitution of mint. My mom-in-law planned to swing by to restock the birthday herb planter, so I traipsed down to the container corner to tidy it up a bit before she arrived. When I moved the pot of mint, it revealed a half-dozen stalks of it firmly established in the ground next to the pot. Sturdy, two-foot tall specimens. I'm not wholly surprised nor displeased, but I'm now also fighting the urge to manufacture a post-apocalypse skit featuring mint vs. cockroaches.

Anyhow, there are now three pretty new basil plants back there, and I plucked a bunch of the mint for lunch, along with some of the chives and greek oregano (tossing it all with some shredded romaine, grated parmesan, black pepper and balsamic vinegar). Mixed a tall glass of sweet tea, boiled some eggs, and accompanied all of it with Bettina Ehrlich's entertainingly opinionated 1952 essay on "Story and Picture in Children's Books," in which she writes against "painting down" to children (i.e. the "artificial babyishness" of making one's illustrations crudely child-like) and deplores a particular trend:

One word, I think, should also be said about a certain type of balloon-headed children and pets which crop up all too frequently in children's books. The desire to create lovable and cuddly creatures, especially little animals, is, I suppose, responsible for this fashion. But a drawing, however free and personal, based on the profound study of nature will, I believe, convey the lovable and the moving much better. The wrinkles on a puppy's forehead, the enormous beak of a baby chicken, are features that make us love them but I cannot see that the fact that a creature is hydrocephalic makes it particularly adorable.

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