I hate cooking with my children.
I know, I know. Cooking with one’s children is supposed to be one of life’s finest pleasures: a science lesson, math homework, and a bonding experience all rolled into one. It is the passing down of knowledge. It is two generations, joined together in the essential act of preparing sustenance.
The problem is that I love to cook. By myself. I like to chop, mix, and invent. In fact, the only thing I don’t enjoy doing is greasing the pan, which is to me as annoying a step as stretching before running, except messier. Before I had children, I could put on some music and shake my groove thing while tossing extra garlic into the pan. Now that I have kids, my groove thing is three sizes larger and I can’t use garlic because one of the children is allergic.
The kitchen is no longer a place to get away from it all, because it all follows me right in. The children want to cook with me, which is frustrating as hell because that’s my place. I don’t get in their way while they build blocks or play pirates or whatever the hell they do for entertainment. Why the hell do they keep getting all up in my space?
Benjamin, in particular, has begun to show a tremendous interest in all things culinary. Unlike Lilah, who spends most of her time in the kitchen taking things out of cabinets, Benjamin wants to help me. Which, God love him, he is completely incapable of doing. Because he is three, and three-year-olds don’t know what the fuck they are doing in the kitchen.
What three-year-olds excel at, however, is getting dirty. Like, say, their hands. With butter. And, suddenly, it occurred to me: I could make him butter the pan.
I’ll be damned if he doesn’t love doing it. Now, after all that annoying asking to taste each ingredient and insisting upon working the food processor, I can give him a muffin pan with a few chips of butter and he’ll set to work. He’s pretty good at it, I must say.
Once I realized how useful he could be in the kitchen, I stopped trying to devise clever ways of shooing him out. Instead, I welcomed him with his buttery little paws. It became much less annoying when he asked to whisk the eggs because I knew that soon he would earn his keep with that muffin pan.
Then, I realized he was getting pretty good at the other stuff. True, he still gets batter everywhere when filling the pan, but he manages to mix the dry ingredients without getting flour on the ceiling. An added bonus? Since he gets ample whisk-using time in the preparation of actual food, he is much less likely to abscond with the thing to use it as part of his dragon-fighting costume.
Since we’ve started baking more together, Benjamin and I are having a lot more quality time. I must admit, although I rue the loss of privacy, I do appreciate hearing things like, “Mommy, I beat up the milk!” And, every now and then, while the computer is shuffling through its play list, we stop cooking to shake our booties.