Tag Archiv: cooking

How We Got to Where We Are

The Chef, by unknown Spanish master, 17th century.

The Chef, by unknown Spanish master. 17th century.

Occasionally it comes upon me with a great panic: the children are growing up. Sooner than I think they’ll be flying the coop, circling the barn, and cresting the clouds somewhere over the pond. With these thoughts the tears rise hard and fast.

Boy one’s shoes look like we could use them as canoes this summer. I feel already his eventual loss. In his most irritating moments, nostalgia morphs into longing for the clock to tick double time, but lately he isn’t irritating me enough. This put me in need of a list. A list of things I still need to teach him in the two and a half, tiny, little, puny, minuscule years before he graduates from high school.

It turned out tobe a long list, which was good. It gave me something else to worry about. I decided there was no time like the present to start working with the others on departure preparedness. Which is why I instituted weekly cooking nights for the months of January and February. Each child has a night to cook with me. Making it to the end of February earns me a gold star. Further commitment, for now, is not required.

As expected, cooking so regularly with sous-chefs has taken the smooth out of dinner preparations, but otherwise I like it. Boy one started with a chicken chili. He learned about peeling garlic cloves, while I assured him he was still in the game on that one since I didn’t know you could get garlic, without ordering it in butter on bread at a restaurant, until after I left home.

“I want to know how to make soup,” announced Boy two. “Can you make sure I learn how to make soup?” We boiled our bones the night before and went to work when he got home from school. Even the leftovers thrilled him. Girl one began with curried chicken (see a meat theme anyone?) and Girl two’s first go was a stir fry (pork!).

The kids have been in the kitchen a million times but their cooking nights feel different. Smelling spices together, cutting up vegetables, and discussing substitutions, I walk them through the secret passages of my castle. Girl two made buttermilk with the usual mix of vinegar and milk. Nothing special, but to her, the knowledge was an invitation to magic. Boy two cried the usual tears as he chopped an onion. It felt like super powers to hand him a piece of bread, tell him to hold it in his mouth, then watch his amazement as his eyes returned to normal.

Wrapped up in these simple things lies the heart and soul of our loving and being. Without food, we die. To prepare a meal well is to reverence life: not wasting what we have, blessing those who partake. To give someone food says I wish you to live. And with good food, I wish you to live well and long and happy.

Together Times, New Year’s and Now

The Card Players (Zwei Kartenspieler) by Paul Cézanne. 1892-1893. (Interesting Trivia: purchased by Qatar royal family in 2011 for most sum of money ever paid for a work of art.)

The Card Players (Zwei Kartenspieler) by Paul Cézanne. 1892-1893.
(Interesting Trivia: purchased by Qatar royal family in 2011 for most sum of money ever paid for a work of art.)

The ping pong table was a success. Stunned raised eyebrows that mother dearest was of her own accord introducing things that bounced into the house. Mother dearest has been emotionally challenged with the enthusiastic table shoving involved in preferred methods of set up, but overall, no regrets, and a little training in gift usage is ok.

Girl two had asked repeatedly for Christmas to bring a Barbie horse. I found two possibilities, both for ridiculous amounts of money that I simply couldn’t justify. Unbeknownst to me, her siblings had found a Barbie horse at a second hand store earlier that day for less than a tenth of the price. By Christmas morning it was one of the biggest packages under the tree. (For some reason the kids don’t think they’ve done it right unless there are multiple boxes involved in a packaging exercise.)

We made the best of the mild weather. We took our usual walks and scouted new ones in nearby forests. On boxing day, the kids and I decided that weather that warm the day after Christmas was not to be scoffed at. In snow pants, gloves, hats, and sweatshirts, we hit the bike trails for a rare mid-winter cycle.

Uno games are high on my list, since everyone can play them, but watching Girl one begin her entry into the regular world of cards after Girl two had gone to bed, was a great joy. Some parents sit with baited breath as their child takes their first step, gets on the school bus, or goes for a first overnight. For us, the crossing of the threshold into competitive card games is a joy hard to contain. Girl one was thrilled to be included and appointed me her royal adviser. Not sure where she gets all the drama, but she was happy and we were happy, and with a little reminding about how much help she was getting, Boy two (now taking his own first steps in the world of the now un-coached card player) survived her first few winning hands.

I have dispensed of New Year’s resolutions and have instead arranged some modest goals from now until the end of February, at which time I will re-evaluate. As part of modest goals, Boy one is working on his cooking. Since session one, I’ve adjusted the idea that he’ll magically cook by himself without first cooking together. This was fine for baking, but with cooking it helps to chop side by side, learn to peel the skin off garlic by seeing someone do it, and smell spices together before throwing them in. There’s a heart and soul to cooking that I want to share. And now that I mention it, I want to write about it sometime too, so no more of that for now.

For now, it’s time for the lovely quiet of kids gone back to school.

Boogers and Grace

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It was a bad day. I started off with a spring in my step, discovery and new possibilities at my finger tips. Why not an experiment?. Tra la. I chopped up a cup of raw Swiss chard and threw it in  my muffin batter. Zucchini, cooked spinach, applesauce, oatmeal, and all kinds of leftovers do just fine in muffins. Raw Swiss chard it turns out does not. They weren’t inedible, but the song they were singing failed to make the family set down their weapons, call a ceasefire and dance. With our worst foot forward, we picked at each other with all the God given skill available.

The morning worked like a giant search light. Illuminating the absolute pointlessness of what I do. The stupidity of even trying. It was a gym day, so no pulling back for a quiet day to reboot.

In P.E. Child X ran for the usual hug upon seeing me. Not a big fan of sports (in her perfect world, we’d all stand around hugging) she was joyfully tagged out and came to sit by me. Glancing down, I found her with a finger so far up her nose, I wasn’t sure she’d be able to retrieve it.

Obviously, I told her to stop. Nose picking, particularly at that kind of depth, was not part of the game and therefore not allowed, I explained.

A second later, she reached up to hold my hand. Naturally, I recoiled.

She was six and dumbfounded.

But I was 42 and unmoved. Another teachable moment. Most people (that includes me) prefer not to hold hands with boogers. No doubt that goes for ear wax and a few other things but I kindly only mentioned the boogers.

It was a giant metaphor. Almost everyone I ran into yesterday had boogers of one kind or another and was trying to touch me . . . despite my obvious need for space (on account of the worthlessness of everything I do).

So yes, a bad day. But it ended in unexpected mercy and by morning’s light, that really seemed the more important part of the day.

A friend came for dinner last night. I love when she comes. She helps the kids with French. I feed an audience that swallows and says thank you no matter what I serve. To my surprise, she arrived with arms loaded. A mammoth package of ribs, baguettes, and a container of my favorite salsa (not available near me and usually reserved for special occasions).  No reason for the gifts. She gave her usual excuse: they were on sale. But on sale, just means she buys lots and lots until she’s spent as much as she would have spent if there hadn’t been a sale.

I was too grumpy to let it fix me for good last night. But this morning, it’s hard to miss Love’s little fly by of mercy with the unexpected dumping of grace. Maybe an extra hug for my young friend is in order the next time I see her.

A few from the twos

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In the kitchen:

Boy two wanted to cook. With much delight, he sequestered himself for the making of the world’s best molasses cookie ever. I am descended from a master of molasses and make a pretty fine molasses cookie myself. I tasted his cookies ready to sweetly encourage him from the heights of my better way. But his cookies weren’t ok, they were amazing. Starting to feel a little threatened, I reminded myself to be happy for him. He is after all my son. Just because he killed the competition on his first shot at molasses cookies didn’t mean my contributions to the craft of cooking had no value.

To comfort myself, I ate a lot of cookies.  Secret ingredients were enthusiastically confessed as I ate. Clarity came not with the choice of ingredients, but rather their amounts. My prize Mexican vanilla (for which one needs half the called for amount to equal three times the glorious flavor) had been used by a boy who didn’t wait excitedly for it to arrive, procured by relatives visiting in Arizona. The cookies were soaked in vanilla like fruit cake in brandy. Undercooked cookie consumption could have meant a drunk driving charge. The recipe called for a teaspoon. Boy two used a 1/4 cup. (That’s 12.5 times the amount the recipe called for if anyone’s curious.) I’m going to stick to my recipe after all, but if I ever want a very pricey cookie, I know who to call.

 

On the way to school:

Girl one says God can do anything.

Girl two is sympathetic to her position but not convinced. God is great and everything, she says, but . . .  God has never turned a mother into a baby. He has turned a baby into a mother, but never a mother into a baby. And even when he turns a baby into a mother it’s not very fast. It takes like a really long time. So maybe he can turn a mother into a baby, but so far, he never has.

 

After dinner exchanges:

I see Boy two give Girl one some money. I can’t figure out why, so I take the money away, give it back to him along with advice not to share, and go about my business. He takes his money and goes upstairs to find Girl one. I can hear him giving her the money again.

She doesn’t need your money, I say when he returns. It’s really ok to have your own things.

Don’t worry, he says rubbing his hands together with a wicked smile. The only birthdays left are hers and mine. I’m just helping make my present even bigger.