Cooking and I are not good friends. But I’ve tried to not ruin my children’s enjoyment of cooking (or eating, considering the many failures I’ve tried to make them eat). I knew they had the potential to make a party of cooking one day when they were two. They had a Betty Crocker mini-set of kitchen appliances which kept them concocting dishes long before it was safe for them to use real appliances. It included a toaster that really popped fake toast, a blender that when you pressed the button whizzed around whatever little toy you could fit into the pitcher, and a hand mixer that spun the beaters back and forth with every push of the sprocket-driven button. I knew they were ready to have their first cooking lesson when I came back into the bathroom one day when we were potty training and they had the hand mixer in the little bowls of the potty chairs and were whipping up what they’d put in there. (And it wasn’t water from the faucet.)
Our first cooking lesson: You don’t cook in the bathroom. And certainly not with what you find in the potty.
When they were about four, my dad was in the hospital for a while. We visited him several times and sat with him while the TV played in the background, which played mostly cooking shows, which fascinated the kids. They’d never seen cable television, let alone something as captivating as never-ending cooking, baking, and eating. Not long after the hospital visits, the kids were in our kitchen making sandwiches for lunch while I lay on the couch wiped out and willing to leave the food preparation in their young hands. Charlie, who had seemed the most glued to the cooking shows, was heading up the kitchen team, guiding the group through the process. When they finished with the sandwiches, I heard him giving final instruction to everyone as they plated the food. “Now, don’t worry about how it will taste. It doesn’t matter how it tastes. Everything is about the presentation.”
I guess after my “Hawaiian Sweet and Sour Spam Bake,” he somehow became too easily convinced that the way food tasted had little to do with the whole endeavor. I’m still sorry about that dish. It never should have happened.
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