photo by Sheri Dixon

Monday, April 2, 2012

All Quality Time Should End With Food

Alec has started a new class on Sundays.

Part chemistry, part adventure, part danger and part math, there is excitement in every moment, anxiety at every turn but ultimately gratification at the end.

*I'm teaching him to cook*

Not stuff like deli ham + sliced cheese + bread = sammich

or "Remove tray from box, cut 3 small slits in plastic and microwave on high for 1 minute 30 seconds"

Like this-

Getting out a cookbook + gathering ingredients + following directions = FOOD

We already stress simple, real food over pre-packaged food both for health and economy, and he already knows the REAL food is found on the perimeter of the grocery store- produce, dairy, meat except for things like plain rice, pasta, dried beans and items in the bakery aisle.

I don't expect my son to be a world-class chef. I do want him to be able to feed himself more than Raman Noodles when he moves out, and be able to step up and help me now.

And because once he actually does the cooking, he actually knows what it takes.

Case in point- the Sunday he made us pizza.

Pizza crust one of the simplest things to make- flour, water, salt, yeast. There is some temperature and timing involved, along with needing (or kneading) a feel for the dough and how to fit it to the pizza pan without over-working it, which makes it tough instead of tender. But it's still pretty basic.

Nevertheless, once he got it properly tamed and in place, he looked at me and said "You do this every time we have pizza?" Why yes, son. I do.

Yesterday he made us breakfast for supper- cheesy scrambled eggs (from our chickens), biscuits from scratch, sausage patties he formed from a package of bulk sausage and gravy made from the drippings (another simple thing- water, flour and butter in addition to the drippings-no envelope of "gravy mix").

The eggs were scrambled to cheesy perfection, the biscuits flaky and golden, the gravy and sausage just right.

Watching my boy use my grandmother's rolling pin and my mother-in-law's mixing bowl was a joyful thing- there's no such thing as "just throwing a meal together"- cooking should be a social, meaningful, historical experience.

Of course the tender moments were punctuated by the main character being a 12 year old boy- "beat batter for 2 minutes" elicited some impressive tae kwon do moves before I got him to take the hand mixer, and "Here- put these 6 eggs in this bowl had him stacking the eggs in the bowl...with shells still attached.

Even though we had breakfast for supper, we still needed dessert and Alec requested chocolate cake.

He did an excellent job of it- so far everyone who's tasted it says it's indistinguishable from mine.

Alec says "Of course it tastes the same- it's her recipe and she supervised me", but I told him there still needs to be a "feel" for cooking- some people can be micro-manage-supervised and still not be able to cook their way out of a paper sack.

He's a natural. And I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom.

This time.

Chocolate Coffee Cake

1 3/4 c baking mix (we use Pioneer)
2 c sugar
3/4 c cocoa
2 eggs
1 c milk
1/2 c olive oil (I know- weird, right? Don't worry- it works)
1 c strong black coffee
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13 X 9 pan.
Mix all ingredients and beat for 2 minutes- batter will be thin.
Pour into pan and bake for 35 minutes or till a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool on a rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Very rich and moist.

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