I’m a junkie! A food junkie. It doesn’t matter if it’s animal, mineral, vegetable, or dessert. I’m addicted! And there is no twelve-step program to help me with my problem. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a junk food junkie. I’m more the semi-gourmet type. As I grow older, it seems the temptations worsen. The more time I have on my hands means more time devoted to shopping the supermarkets. My sisters say that with the money I spend on groceries, they can buy new shoes … closets full. But no matter. It’s out! People know about me. They have seen me in the food markets, farm stands, and in my kitchen. They have watched me slice, dice, mince, chop, and sauté in the open. My secret isn’t a secret any longer.
My greatest pleasure, however, is cooking and baking with my grandkids. When they were just toddlers, I invested in step stools so they could reach my kitchen counter and get their hands-on experience early. What a fabulous learning process it has been for all of us. First lesson is cleanliness. Wash your hands before, during and after completing a task, always using paper towels to dry. Then after donning their aprons, they would proceed to learn about measurements, liquid and solid, how to crack eggs separately, so that the shells never get into the batter and then how to use all of the different gadgets that I’ve collected over the years. We have a zester, apple slicer, cherry pitter, potato peeler, strawberry huller, food processor, smoothie machine and a Mixmaster. They now know what they are and how to use each of them responsibly. The children have become proficient slicers, dicers, beaters, whippers, folders and more. They know the terms and use them properly. We whip, beat and scramble eggs, and we make meringues and whipped creams for the pies and tarts. Ingredients get folded, not mixed together. It’s a tedious job in the kitchen, but they are quick and eager learners. We never begin a project without having the recipe in front of us listing all the ingredients necessary, which are placed on the counter. This preparation is the second “must.” Then the real fun begins.
Harrison, who is the oldest grandson, has been in the kitchen with me since he was about two years old and seems the most interested. I don’t know if it’s because he can relate it to Science, his favorite subject, or the creativity that’s part of the progress. At nine years has shown quite a touch of genius in originality. He’s the one who has a list of menus ready when we come to visit. As they are completed, he puts a check mark next to each one. Glen, who is eight years old now, began working with me in the kitchen when he was still in his highchair. I taught him how to open the candy kisses wrappers to make the “witches’ hats” for Halloween. It’s a keebler cookie, spread with orange icing and a candy kiss on top which resembles a pointed hat. It has now become a ritual. His favorites now are making smoothies in the blender, washing strawberries, blueberries, adding bananas, grapes, yogurt, vanilla extract and any other ingredient that suits his fancy. He’s quite a creative juicer and the drinks always come out tasting delicious. His all-time favorite is making chocolate chip cookies. I have to hold him back from putting in too much vanilla extract, (he loves the smell), and from eating the cookie dough. I tell him he can’t eat anything made with raw eggs. Sometimes he listens to me, but once in a while it’s just too good to resist. My little guy, Brandon, who calls himself “Big Brandon” now that he has turned four years old is always climbing up to the counter screaming “me too”. It has almost become a mantra more than an echo. He’s great at following directions and loves making peanut butter balls. His favorite part though is dipping them in chocolate and sprinkling them with colored candies. Just picture the result when half the chocolate winds up on his face and the other half on his hands, but he sure has fun and is always so proud to show off his accomplishments to his Dad when he gets in home from work. My granddaughters, Julia, Samantha and Nicole, ages six to eight years old, are more into making dough. They love the feel of kneading it and get excited watching it rise from the yeast. They each have their own rolling pins and boards to make crusts for pies, pizza dough, breads, calzones, and strombolies. They are very picky and personal when it comes to adding the toppings on their pizzas, and I do have to say, they come out scrumptious. No matter the occasion, we have the decorations, the pans and the” know how” to make any holiday special. We can decorate cupcakes as Easter baskets, Santa Claus faces, spider webs, pumpkins, valentine hearts or birthday hats. Each child gets a turn to choose what kind of dessert he or she wants to make for that evening’s dinner. The creations have been spectacular. The imagination that has been evident in their finished product proves that cooking is not only fun but educational. Now comes the real test….the clean-up jobs.
They’re right there for me. One is washing the pans at the kitchen sink, while the other is busy cleaning off the counter with a Clorox wipes. One is vacuuming the spills on the kitchen floor and another mopping up. Brandon’s job is putting the step stools back. I make sure that all the ingredients are placed back in the pantry in proper order for the next adventure. These children have been my inspiration, as well as my encouragement in writing my own cookbook. They have taught me the importance of keeping traditions in the family and recording recipes for the next generation. My mom, who was greatest cook and baker I’ve ever known, never left a written recipe for me to follow. It has been a constant source of frustration for me because I would have to try and recreate the tastes I remember through trial and error. The aromas that emanated from her kitchen will forever be etched in my memory and if this is the kind of memory I can create for my children and grandchildren, then I have made my mark. I can only hope that they don’t become junkies, like their grandmother. Is that a bad thing?