This is the seventh installment of Sunday Dinners, a biweekly column from our own Tom Hirschfeld featuring his gorgeous photography, stunning Indiana farm, and mouthwatering family meals.

Today: Tom tells us about the two little reasons he will always garden.

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- Tom

It all starts with peas, well, at least for us it did. It really is that simple.

It is late in the day when I walk around from the back of the house after I finish cutting the grass. What I see is Vivian, standing at the edge of the pea patch, eating, and eating, pea after perfectly sugary and ripe pea. The intensity in her little blue eyes and the smile on her lips says it all.

shelling peas  green beans

At that moment I knew I would always garden.

I have grown vegetables and fruit for years. I don’t necessarily like the work but I always like the results. It allows me to grow food I can’t buy at the grocery. So I do. It is the freshest ingredients I can find and, as a chef, that is what I am supposed to do, you know: search out the freshest ingredients.

It goes deeper though. Like when I watch Vivian put her hand behind a pea and lift. She isn’t weighing it but more checking for the right plumpness. She can work her way through the patch picking only the best of the best pods. She cracks them open while talking, she is always talking, and looks over at the dogs playing and never really pays attention to what she is doing with the peas in her hands. Rest assured though, nary a pea falls to the ground and once the pod is cracked she lifts it to her mouth and shoots her head back emptying the tiny green balls into her mouth just like she is an old soul in the green pea game. She is only six years old.

painted nails  rolling dough

Don’t for a minute think Lynnie, my four year old, hasn’t gotten in on the game. She can pick carrots like no tomorrow, soft ground or hard. She wraps her little fingers into the green tops and gently wiggles until the carrot pops loose without breaking. She does the same with parsnips. Then she washes them over at the water spigot, the skins so thin she doesn’t need to peel them, and wanders around like she has a cigar in her mouth, chewing and savoring each orangie bite.

The notion is that all these little things become habit, just like standing next to me on a chair at the counter and learning to make biscuits, pie crust or pasta noodles. Or just like today, when Vivian discovered the joy of tea made with fresh chamomile flowers. Sure, it may not seem like much, but then eventually they all add up to a much bigger sum.



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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Oui, Chef
    Oui, Chef
  • mcs3000
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  • EmilyNunn
Father, husband, writer, photojournalist and not always in that order.


Oui, C. April 24, 2012
Great story, Tom. My kids are also happy to nosh their way through the garden, any thoughts on how I can get them to weed their way through every now and again? ;-)
mcs3000 April 24, 2012
Adore these pics. Beautiful piece.
gluttonforlife April 24, 2012
So lovely. And sweet. Sweet peas in a pod, you and your girls.
midnitechef April 23, 2012
My parents always had a huge garden, it supplemented our dinners for many years on the farm. After having my own kids I missed the garden and the fresh produce. I forgot how much work and love goes into growing food the right way. It's all worth it though!
EmilyNunn April 23, 2012
Gimme those girls! Give them to me now. Beautiful piece Tom. Give me those girls!
Ileana M. April 22, 2012
This is so wonderful!
SKK April 22, 2012
What a great Dad you are!
Shalini April 22, 2012
That is the notion, isn't it Tom, that these things become habit. Lovely descriptions of your girls and the care they are taking already with their fresh vegetables!
paseo April 22, 2012
A very special post, thank you for it.

All children should be so fortunate.
M.Kurtzman April 22, 2012
Yes,they should.Seeing plants grow from start to finish is rewarding at any age. We had a teeny garden when I was young,but participating in it definitely had a lifelong well as sitting in my grandmother's kitchen in the Bronx,eating and eating and shelling peas that came in a brown paper bag.;]
the M. April 21, 2012
Wonderful post :-)
lastnightsdinner April 21, 2012
Beautiful in every way. I can't wait to cook and garden with my little guy.
Kitchen B. April 21, 2012
Thirsch. I will come visit you. And I'll bring my kids. Please let the Mrs know you have friends who will remain eternally grateful - for the inspiration, the encouragement and most of all the kick to get up and garden. For me. And for them.
mrslarkin April 20, 2012
Oh, that made my day, thirschfeld. You're growing much more than just fruits and vegetables. Thank you.
healthierkitchen April 20, 2012
Just beautiful!
Lizthechef April 20, 2012
A terrific piece from a terrific father.
Burnt O. April 20, 2012
That photo of Lynnie's little hands in between yours on the rolling pin is precious and speaks volumes about the life lessons they're learning with you.