I confess: when it comes to my kitchen, I am not a very good sharer. Even with a family full of talented cooks, I’ve never mastered the easy back-and-forth of two meal makers working in tandem. We tend instead to take turns with parts of dinner: Evan does his delicious thing with his array of professional gadgets, including his sous-vide, and when he is finished, I can then step in and make dessert. Ditto when Sher, Yaj, Patrick, Rose or Julie is at the helm. And when I AM asked to help, it’s to do the pain in the neck jobs. Evan in particular will ask me to take every single tiny cilantro leaf off its stem before chopping—and he checks! My approach to herbs is to just toss them in, stems and all—which is why I would be the one tossed, right out of the Culinary Institute of America.
But lately I have found myself happily sharing my mixer and oven, and working harmoniously with, my little Kitchen Wizard, Aiden. From early on, he has been fascinated by cooking and baking (with is ironic, because he is by far the worst eater in the house). But he WILL eat what he fixes—a good reason to invite him to prepare food with me on a regular basis. We have our routine: Aiden drags a chair from the dining room into the kitchen so he can reach the counter. Then he washes his hands in the sink, then he doffs his snappy Thomas the Tank Engine apron. With that, he’s all set to go!
Chocolate Mocha Cake was the gateway baked good that got him interested in the process of preparation. He learned how to separate eggs, handle the beaters, and frost the finished product. As he’s still a bit young to handle doling out small amounts of ingredients, our mantra with measuring spoons and cups is “Nana measures, Aiden pours.” After we had branched out from cakes to cupcakes and cookies, I thought his attention might flag. But no! He has recently helped me make chili, meatballs, and pasta sauce. I find myself getting excited about meal prep again, just so I can spend special time with my guy.
This weekend he will be helping me make Italian sausage and tortellini soup, which should be a snap. So I decided he was up to a challenge: we will also bake whole wheat and orange bread together! This will be Aiden’s first experience with yeast, and rising dough, and I look forward to his reaction. He already has the chops for kneading (I’ve seen the way he pushes and pulls his brother), so I’m betting he will enjoy that part.
Aiden is learning so much these days: to write his name, to shoot baskets at the park, to ride his trike. Cooking with me may soon take a back seat to other pursuits, I know.
But while it lasts, I will treasure every moment with my dearest sous-chef.