It was Tuesday. Day 4 of a loooong weekend that had been a great example of the weather insanity that is New England. We had been stuck inside for most of it. On this particular day, it was raining. When it’s raining and I’m tired, all I want to do is chill and watch TV. Not exactly the best parenting method, but did I mention it had been a loooong weekend?
Since I was sick of all things animated, we settled on the show Chopped Junior. It’s a cooking show in which young contestants are given a box of mystery ingredients and have to make a dish using all of them, plus any other ingredients they find in the very well-stocked kitchen. Now, I don’t enjoy cooking. I’m not really good at it and it always feels like a lot of effort. Sure you get a great meal out of it but in the end all that’s left are the dishes. And oh, I how hate dishes. Needless to say that I have not encouraged my daughter to cook either. To be honest, she really hasn’t shown much interest. Whenever I do make an attempt to have her help with, say, mixing pancakes, she loses interest fast. But we were both digging this show. First, because these kids are amazing. They have such mad skills at 11 and 12 years old. Their knife work alone blew my mind. Second, because the show is time-based so there’s a level of excitement that goes with it. Will they or won’t they be finished in time? Add in the elimination factor, and we were hooked.
We enjoyed watching a few episodes and then Zoey started drawing. I thought, well, she’s over it, time to move on to the next activity. But then she showed me that she was making a list: Strawberries, oranges, syrup, and bananas. She said, “Mom, we have strawberries, oranges, syrup and bananas. What are we going to make with these ingredients?” I was like, “What? Nothing, I’m chilling.” Then I realized what she was doing. She wanted to be like the kids on Chopped Junior! She was really into it!
We actually did have all those ingredients, so off to the kitchen we went. We searched online for a recipe that could use all those things. I know the Chopped kids make their creations straight from their minds without the internet to help them, but you heard me before when I said I don’t cook, right? We found a recipe for a strawberry banana cake with a glaze frosting and threw in some oranges. I let go of some of my control and let her use the big knife to cut strawberries. I was worried that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as I am awful with sharp objects and cut myself all the time. I cringed a little as she cut the fruit, but she did great and loved it.
I was worried that my dislike for the kitchen and cooking were going to rub off on her. I have always felt rather indifferent about it all, even as a kid. I remember watching my mom make dinner and asking her how she made certain dishes. Her answer was always, “You just learn!” I think she meant that you learn by doing. I took it as “Figure it out on your own kid!” and I just never cared enough. Now, as an adult, I regret not taking the time to seek out my grandmothers to learn their signature dishes, the ones that everyone in the family coveted. Those opportunities are gone now. Sure, the recipes still exist, but it’s the memories you make and the relationships you build while you’re cooking with that special person that make those dishes taste the best. There’s so much more to it than just “cooking.”
When Zoey and I finished making our cake, we not only had a delicious treat, we had a great memory in the kitchen that we otherwise wouldn’t have if we just stayed on the couch. I learned to let go and trust my daughter to handle certain things in the kitchen. I learned to be patient with someone who is still learning. I also learned that 7-year olds are great at doing dishes. She learned that cooking can be fun especially when you do it with someone you love. Who knows where it will go from here? Maybe we can learn to love cooking together and make even more memories.