It’s time to cook our favorite recipe together; we’ve been looking forward to this for days. As I corral the ingredients to make our favorite dish, I ask my granddaughter for her help. “Of course,” she says in the most adult voice she can manage at the age of 5. “Can I take the tape off please?”
I stop for a minute to think about what she said. What tape? Does she want to do an art project?
She comes over and gets on her little step stool to wash her hands. “Can I take the tape off now?” she asks sweetly. “Honey, what do you mean take the tape off?” She looks at me with wide, olive-colored eyes, picks up a garlic clove and says, “I want to take the tape off of these, Gigi.” Of course! What a perfect way to describe taking the skin off the garlic cloves. Makes total sense. It does look and feel like tape in a way. There were a lot of garlic cloves. She happily unwraps each one like it’s a precious gift. Which, when you think about it – it is.
Cooking doesn’t come easy to me, but I love it. There’s nothing better than the scent of garlic sautéing on the stove. Or chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven on a cold rainy day – or any day for that matter. Then there’s the fun of experimentation. Who knew that making a sushi poke bowl could be so easy or that scallops could be such divas in the pan – 2 minutes on high heat on each side or you end up with a high-priced failure for dinner.
Cooking with my granddaughter, however, takes things to a whole new level. There is chaos and laughter in the kitchen and magic in the air. We create an Enchanted Broccoli Forest for dinner, pasta with green pesto sauce becomes “Grinchee Pasta”, “Monster Meatballs” appear on the menu without warning and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are cut into fun shapes. Getting her to taste a mushroom, however, is not happening. At least not yet.
Cooking is the end point of the process; the real magic happens at the farm. To better understand where our food comes from, we shop at the farmers markets, pick strawberries in the field, and try to grow our own little windowsill garden in the city. The magic of a seed transforming into a vegetable plant never ceases to inspire awe in that little face. Next year, we might even try to grow little tomato plants on the patio.
These precious moments of gathering and cooking together are ties that bind us together in happiness and joy but as celebrity chef Guy Fieri says, “Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes, and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment, and creativity.”
What new monsters will we create in the kitchen this week? Maybe I’ll ask my little sous chef for some ideas. I have no doubt she’ll come up with something truly original and possibly messy. To that I say, bring it on. There’s nothing better than a little chaos in the kitchen to spice up the day.