Monday, August 4, 2008

Culinary Arts

C is for Cookie

After the life-disrupting turmoil that has been moving, I feel like I am back into the swing of things in the food and cooking department. I really love cooking and eating and food in general and I like to go grocery shopping because I get to walk around contemplating all the foods I might get to cook and eat, especially if it is a fun grocery store of some type. Having your kitchen all packed up in boxes definitely puts a damper on such pursuits, so this summer has seen a gradual rediscovery of my enjoyment of cooking somewhere between the blender and the lemon zester. Since we’ve moved here, I’ve started to make a conscious effort to include Grace in cooking. I hadn’t ever really done that before, viewing the kitchen sometimes as a personal retreat and sometimes as a place where I must be EFFICIENT and STREAMLINED to get dinner on the table. Toddlers do not contribute to either of those, in case you were wondering.

However, I realized that I really want to share preparing food with her, or any child of mine, male or female. It would thrill me, of course, if she ends up thinking it is a fun and relaxing (and delicious) part of life, but even if she doesn’t end up watching the Food Network to wind down after a busy day, I want her to know her way around a kitchen and have an understanding of our relationship with food, where it comes from, and how the choices we make affect the world around us and our own health. (I type this beneath the picture of cookie dough with M&Ms in it. Well, they’re a sometime food. And it was made with whole wheat flour.)

My first instinct was to be really dubious about cooking with Grace. “But she will make a mess!” I thought. “And it will take so much longer!” After some toddler cooking sessions, I regret to report that both of these are true. But really, what is a bit of a mess? And what was I obsessing about time for? When I try to cook on my own, I have to fend off an attention-seeking toddler waltzing around my legs; including her almost makes it easier. Sure, cooking with her takes more time, but it’s time we are doing something together and she is learning and having fun. Isn’t that why I’m staying home for the time being, to get to be the one to do fun things with her?

So Grace is in LOVE with cooking now, and dashes to drag a chair into the kitchen to stand on whenever I suggest it. My current dilemma is trying to find ways to include her more. Baking is great; lots of counting and dumping and stirring and measuring. Making real food (you know, like dinner) is more difficult as it so often involves sharp knives and boiling water and the stove. What can I say? Grace’s knife skills are not quite up to snuff. Maybe when she’s 3. Anyway, sometimes she will content herself to watch me work while holding a wooden spoon in one hand and a whisk in another, but sometimes we are back to the manic toddler circling my legs as I try to dice and saute. Then I am back to waiting until Rob is home or starting Sesame Street on the Tivo. (Or Zoboomafoo. Have all you mom types seen this? It’s all about animals and Grace is a big fan.)

They say that children are much more likely to accept food that they have helped prepare, but I think that might apply more to older children. I think the time interval between the preparation and the eating is still too long for Grace to make the connection that she is eating something she helped make; at 2 and 1/2, she still has a pretty limited view of time. She does usually enjoy the fruits of our labor, though. A little while ago, we made this chocolate loaf cake and one evening we were eating the last pieces of it. Somehow she decided she wanted my piece, even though I had already consumed it at that point. Peevish and cross, she tried sticking her fork in my mouth to get the cake back but when told that the cake was all gone and had gone in Mommy’s tummy, she took her fork and started poking me in the belly with futile protest as to the lack of cake available to her. Her understanding of the digestive system is showing great improvement, although her grasp of sharing not so much.

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