Since the gardening tasks are rather light right now, my time and efforts have naturally moved indoors. And my favorite place to be indoors is the kitchen, that careworn farmhouse kitchen which drastically needs an expansion to make it truly inviting and efficient. Though I may find it wanting, I do enjoy working here.
And since she’s been able to stand, I have involved our daughter in the daily cooking and making that takes place in this kitchen. It started small; she could pour and stir at 2-1/2, of course. Now that she’s nearing 8 (!!) she is able to cook certain things, start to finish, like eggs many ways or roast chicken with minimal involvement from me. But now I am requiring her full mental abilities in cooking: I am having her memorize recipes and formulas.
Before you call social services, let me simply state that I am having her do things she likes to eat. And because I am leftover-phobic, I have her make the small portions of bread-y things for the daily dinner. This stress on “not too much” is where one-cup cooking comes in. And because our winter meals tend to be soup or stew, the added bulk of breadstuffs helps weigh out the meal.
Like most kids, she’s a carboholic (and like most parents who watch their weight, her parents are carbophobic), so that one cup usually means flour. One cup of flour (semolina or AP) plus one egg plus one egg’s worth of both water and olive oil makes a mean pasta…plus, she loves the French rolling pin. One cup of flour plus one cup of milk plus one egg and some melted butter makes a nice crepe batter, shaken up in a mason jar…she’s good at flipping them. One cup of flour plus two cups of cooked potato make a lot of gnocchi, enough for two dinners for us. One cup of whole wheat flour plus a little salt and dried herbs, even some grated parmesan and enough water to hold it together make lovely crackers in the pasta roller. And one cup of flour plus half a cup of chopped cold butter plus an egg’s worth of ice water makes a great crust for her favorite leek tart.
The one-cup rule applies to lots of other things too: one cup of beans soaking overnight. One cup of rice and two cups water in the rice cooker is plenty. One cup of ground meat is enough to flavor any sauce or chili, or to make mini-meatballs (with a half cup of breadcrumbs and an egg to bind it together). I could go on. Basically, my goal is to have a child who is actively engaged and confident in the kitchen…and teaching her to be thrifty along the way shouldn’t hurt her.
I am always surprised when parents shoo their kids out of the kitchen. Granted; she’s not interested in cooking every day, but I do encourage her to stick her head in to see what I am doing. She does have setting/clearing the table duties, so she’s never without something to do, meal-wise. But how else are they going to learn unless they break something or make a mess or burn something? It’s how we all learn, and yes, it’s messier and slower. Allow some time, and take a deep breath.
(Now, if only I could encourage my husband to cross the kitchen threshold on occasion…but that could be a slippery slope leading to his wanting to garden. Uh, maybe not.)