It hasn’t been an issue until now. The boys have not expressed an interest in cooking over the past few years, but all of a sudden they are begging to get into the kitchen. I have no idea what brought this on. I cook maybe three or four meals per week during our three days of “man time” so why do they now desire to work alongside me?
This is not a complaint in any form. I’m ecstatic. It’s just that it came out of nowhere. One minute I couldn’t get either of them to butter their own toast, the next I am barking out safety precautions, quarantining the little one to the kitchen’s “danger-free zone” and checking to make sure the fire extinguisher is fully charged.
This is a dream come true, as glorious as the day my first born asked me to throw the football instead of me pleading. This is almost as proud a moment as when my second born scored multiple goals in a single soccer game. This is better than a straight-A report card but don’t tell them. Having both of my kids interested in cooking has filled me with such joy that I feel compelled to share it with you.
To get into this story you must understand the three subjects. First we have Lucas. Lucas is 11 going on 19; he’s read more books than I did by age 25, a budding musician and one of the smartest guys I know. I’m not just saying that. Graham just turned 7. He’s street smart, a bit of a comedian and a total ladies’ man with great timing. Last and certainly least is myself. I’m a bit of a jackass-of-all-trades but I love to play music and cook.
I’ve actually done both of these things for a very long time. Before I was old enough for piano lessons I believed I was Elvis. But this is a food column so we won’t follow that thread any further. I was also into cooking, sort of. I remember making my own oatmeal one morning so as to not wake the parents. The water from the tap wasn’t hot enough so I placed my bowl of gruel in front of a rinky-dink space heater on a chilly morning and waited. And waited. No part of the oatmeal was the least bit warm, save the side of the bowl, but I ate it with pride because I’d made it myself. It’d be another year before we were introduced to the magic of the microwave.
I won’t romanticize my childhood and tell you the “I learned to cook standing on a chair next to my grandma” bit. That old chestnut has been done to death. I’m just saying I had an interest. I still have my “Peanuts Lunch Bag Cook Book” originally printed in 1970, years — maybe decades — before my birth. It has a recipe and one of Charles Schultz’s cartoons on every opposing page.
There is also the “Official Star Trek Cooking Manual” that appeared from God knows where. It’s a bit racially divided with Helmsman Sulu’s Chinese Walnut Chicken, Ensign Chekov’s Borscht and of course Engineering Officer Scott’s (Scotty) Pot Haggis. These are really complicated recipes that no child should attempt and I’m still scratching my head as to how this came to be in my possession, but it’s a pretty good cookbook whether you’re traveling the final frontier or not.
Later in my life someone, intending to inspire a future Lucas to cook with his dad, gave me “The Star Wars Cookbook.” The introduction begins, “Consider, young Jedi: Why bake a plain old cookie when you can bake a super-Chewie Wookie Cookie?”
Yes, answer that. Why?
With creations like Yoda Soda, Han-burgers and Boba Fett-uccine you can imagine that I have used this one as leverage to shut off the video games and get the boys into the kitchen. It’s been helpful having this book around because they just can’t say no to some of the recipe names, and they become so excited.
But these moments have been fleeting. There was a bit of participation when Catherine got them a Spiralizer. Never have I seen either eat zucchini willingly until that gem came along. Cranking out vegetable “pasta” was fun for a while, but we haven’t overdone it with the gadget traps.
None of these methods ever set the boys on fire for cooking. Then out of the blue a couple of weeks ago Graham announced that he wanted to be a chef. He didn’t giggle. He didn’t joke about it. We played along and he kept talking about it. Next thing you know he’s on a stool standing beside me and learning to boil his own pasta.
He picked out the pasta. He read the directions. He decided there would be no sauce, but instead a delicate sprinkling of Parmesan cheese (grated, of course, he’d not stand for that powdery junk from the pizza parlors) would top his dish.
The following week I cooked a frittata. Lucas loved it so much he had to learn to make his own. As tired as I was of eggs, my feeling of pride that he wanted to cook for us overcame my fatigued palate and we had frittatas two nights in a row. His was filled with shrimp, onion, red bell pepper, sausage, spinach and leftover cod. The onion was my only demand as Graham and I told him he had to learn to love it. The taste was restaurant-worthy but the presentation suffered as a little of the center stuck to the skillet.
This is a happy time in the MacDonald household. We can’t wait for our next dinner. If I play my cards right I may only have to cook once a week. To keep the ball rolling we have enrolled Graham in after-school classes at The Cookery, a culinary experience for sous-chefs ages 6 and up. Check them out at www.thecookerymobile.com.
Lucas is continuing his home education under my watchful eye. If you want to join in the fun, I have a recipe for Obi-Wan Kebabs.
Use the fork, Luke.