For the past two weeks, I fell out of my usual cooking routine. I relied on meals I froze (like eggplant parmigiana & lentil soup) instead. It became so obvious that when I don’t feel my best, my desire to cook plummets. I haven’t even been able to open my birthday present “The Essential New York Times Cook Book: Classic Recipes for a New Century” (ed. by Amanda Hesser). Granted, the book is a beast.
Despite my lack of cooking at home, I still cooked with the little boy I take care of during the week. He shows a real interest in cooking. It also helps that he doesn’t have any food hang ups. My mom never tolerated picky eaters. When I had friends over and they refused to eat something she made, she’d ask them “well, are you allergic?” They usually ate after that.
I like fostering Sam’s desire to cook. He wants to learn. He dutifully brings his footstool to the counter and groans when he cannot chop with the sharpest knife in the kitchen. I’ve never worked with a child that is so curious about creating and presenting meals. I don’t like to use the “children’s cookbooks” that lie around the house. They’re so gimmicky. And more importantly, they underestimate a child’s true potential in the kitchen. Children crave adult sized things because those objects operate in a “real” world. They are not fantasy objects, pink tea-cups full of plastic tea. I think that children find adult things more meaningful because they incorporate both reality and fantasy. When I’m a parent, I hope to give my children objects that respect their intelligence to straddle both reality and fantasy (i.e: real tea-cups for tea parties under the sea). I think what makes my time with Sam so enjoyable is I don’t treat him like a seven-year old. We kid around, we tease. We communicate honestly.
One afternoon Sam told me “Jeanette, I want to make a feast.” Sam is a slow and careful eater (something I am not). I liked imagining him at the end of a very long table, the width of a wooden butcher block, tipping grape juice to the gods. “Bring me a goose! Corn! Bread, carrots, squash, potatoes…” We couldn’t make a goose. The last goose I saw gushed oil all over the stove and took weeks to clean from the racks. We ended up making a roast chicken instead. A feast! No goblets though..