Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do with my mom was to cook. As soon as I was big enough to climb on a stool and reach the kitchen counter, Mom let me help in the kitchen. She let me stir and pour and frost and crack eggs and lick the beaters. She showed me how to use measuring cups and spoons, how to read a recipe, how to know when cakes and cookies are done baking, and how to adapt a recipe when you need to. And now that my son is big enough to climb on a stool and reach the kitchen counter, I let him help in the kitchen, too.

And I’m not alone in that. My son has cooked with his older sister and his daddy as well. In fact, almost every time he hears his sister in the kitchen, he runs upstairs and announces, “I want to help cook!” It’s nearly an unspoken rule in the household that he must be invited to help with any cooking involving cracking eggs. I love how natural it is for him to do things in the kitchen.

And I try to let him do as much as possible when we cook together. Last Sunday we needed to bring something to church for coffee hour, so he and I baked brownies. I read the recipe, chose the right measuring cups and utensils, and cut open the package of mix, but he really did the majority of the work. He broke the eggs into the bowl with minimal assistance (and didn’t get a single bit of eggshell in the bowl!). He carefully dumped the mix into the bowl. He poured the oil and the water into the measuring cup and dumped it into the bowl. He squeezed the packet of fudge in. He sprayed the pan with cooking spray. And we took turns stirring and counting our strokes until we reached 50. Then he scooped the batter into the pan and smoothed it out. And on Sunday, he was very proud to tell everyone that he had made those brownies himself.

Baking is his favorite, but we do cooking together, too. A few weeks ago we made shepherd’s pie together, and once again, he did the majority of the work. I browned the ground beef and poured the boiling water for the mashed potatoes, but he did nearly everything else. He helped me scoop the beef into the pan, then he poured the frozen corn into the measuring cup up to the line that I showed him and poured it onto the beef. He poured the salt into the measuring spoon and scooped the butter into the bowl for the potatoes. He measured the milk and the potato flakes and poured them in. And he stirred everything together after I added the hot water. He dumped the potatoes on top and smoothed them out, then dropped handfuls of cheese on top of the whole glorious mess. He even helped me crimp a piece of tinfoil over the top. I popped it into the oven, and when it came out and I spooned it onto plates for him, his daddy, and myself, he again announced proudly, “I made this for you!”

Yesterday being Fat Tuesday, I thought I’d let him have something special for lunch, so we made a tortilla pizza. He laid a tortilla on his plate, scooped some pizza sauce on and spread it around, and covered it with shredded cheese. I put it in the microwave to melt, and then together we used a pizza cutter to make wedges. He was very proud of his own creation and gobbled it right up.

I look forward to a few years from now, when I plan to make it his responsibility to choose a menu and help make dinner once a week. I already have a mental list of favorites that he can do completely or at least almost completely on his own: shepherd’s pie, meatloaf, wienerschnitzel (one of the first dishes I made by myself under my mom’s watchful eye), soup, chicken and rice casserole, pork chops.

I have always appreciated that my husband knows how to cook – it’s great for his own sake and for mine. And I plan on raising a son who can feed not only himself, but his family and friends as well. And if he turns out to be a better cook than I am, that’s just fine with me.

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