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03 December 2006

i love kumquats.

kumquat chutney, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

I love kumquats.

I love the word of the thing. Kum-quat. So much fun to say. During the three months of my student teaching -- oh so many years ago now; those 14-year-olds are now 30 years old! -- I taught a lesson on the sounds of words, as a warm-up to high-school poetry writing. (Honestly, they weren't as maudlin as you might have expected.) We worked on assonance -- wavy and sleigh -- and consonance -- crack and cacophony -- and how to truly listen. Feeling first, then literal meaning afterwards.

The first day I introduced this way of being, I stood in front of my new class and said, "Kumquat!" They looked at me as though I had said something dirty. "Kumquat," I said. "Isn't that a great word?"

Turns out that not one kid in that class had ever eaten a kumquat, or even seen one. They thought I was speaking moon man language. When I told them about these adorable little citrus fruits, the only ones that allow you to eat their skins, they were supercharged with energy. Every day, one of them shouted out, at some inopportune moment, "Kumquat, Ms. James!" I seem to remember a day in which the entire class of 28 14-year-olds began chanting "kumquat. kumquat. kumquat." I laughed, every day, with them.

On the last day of classes, at the end of the school year, they presented me with cards and flowers. The class that so loved our wordplay dance with citrus nominated the shyest kid to step forward. He made a little spee about how much they had loved being in my class. And then he pulled his hand from behind his back and presented me with....a bag of kumquats.

They have never tasted that sweet again.

Besides the memories, and the forceful resonance of the sound of the word, I also love the thing itself. I mean, look at the kumquat. Squat, green flaring into orange, a little nipple on top, rippled and flecked skin — this fruit has nothing to offer but itself.

The other day, when the Chef and I walked into the restaurant for the afternoon's work, we were delighted to see that the produce delivery had already arrived. Among the bags of spinach and handfuls of fresh herbs, I spotted a box with a flare of orange peeking up from its depths. Kumquats.

He grinned and went into the kitchen. Half an hour later, this kumquat chutney arrived. He planned to serve it that night with roast chicken. Just a spoonful of it brought all these memories rushing back.

He insists that it's more a marmalade than a chutney. But I can't help it, I like the sound of chutney better. Kumquat chutney. Now there's a sound I love.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups kumquats

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, forming a simple syrup. The moment they boil, put in the kumquats and reduce the heat to low, allowing the kumquats to simmer. When they are glistening, and everything has thickened -- probably about twenty minutes -- you have kumquat chutney. (Or marmalade. But really, say kumquat chutney. Fun!)


At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never eaten a kumquat before because I wasn't sure how to prepare it. But now I will! Oh, and congratulations! I wish you all the happiness in the world.

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh, chutney!! ;) Mari loves chutney! But can you get kumquats in IN in the middle of winter?? May have to save this one for the summer...

Was it good w/ the chicken? Any other serving suggestions?

I've bookmarked you for your great recipies! Thanks!

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not had a kumquat in years. I recall them being utterly potent in flavor, with a bit of tartness. Can't say I have even seen them lately, but I guess I have not been looking. Thanks for making me thing about them again - perhaps I'll take a deeper look next time at the store.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger shuna fish lydon said...

the kumquat is a many splendored thing.

and maybe you can help me start a trend. instead of the boring, "honey" and, "darling" and, "sweetheart," perhaps we could get people to start calling their loves Kumquat.

"O Kumquat, you didn't have to send me flowers!"

Or, snuggling and whispering sweet nothings to our darling kumquats.

Anyway, I think it has a ring to it.

At 5:45 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


How was the kumquat? Have you eaten one yet? You won't be disappointed.

Petite Americaine,

Oh, I'm sure that kumquat chutney would go well with pork. (I know because the Chef is serving it with a roasted pork on the menu this month, along with apples and a red wine sauce.


These little fellers are easy to overlook. But they're worth the search.


You have started a trend. After the Chef read this comment, he has been calling me his little kumquat ever since! It's fantastic.

At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kumquat, Claire-Bing, I love you.

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kumquat, Claire-Bing, I love you.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger selena said...

A snippet of writing that I love, from my preteens: I loved Paula Danziger books in the 80s- the fantasic "The Cat Ate My Gymsuit", and "This Place Has No Atmosphere" (about living on the moon). There's a great passage in "There's a Bat in Bunk Five" where the heroine tells her crush that she wants to be a kumquat when she gets older.

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Jenn Sutherland said...

I love searching through old posts and finding a gem like this one. Strolling through the Vietnamese grocery this afternoon, I spontaneously threw a bag of kumquats in my basket...they make me think of my mom. We share a love of this tarty little fruit, and were the only ones in our family that liked them. We never cooked them, just ate them straight from the bowl.

But I'm going to try the kumquat chutney and spoon it over my steel-cut oats for breakfast. Yum.


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