Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen

A few weeks ago, Slate railed against kids cooking programs. Their lament was the whole public saturation of various cooking programs, restaurant reviews and whathaveyou, featuring kids. I must admit that my reaction was if you don't like it just switch off. As of today, I think the real crisis is in kids' cooking in the home.

Actually, our kids have been doing pretty well helping out in the kitchen. They are, in fact, net contributors. But today, it was our 8 year old son's desire to cook dinner for everyone.
"What are you going to cook?"

"Not sure. I'll work it out."

"OK, just don't take too long."
An hour later.
"What are you cooking?"

"I'm not sure. It doesn't have a name."

"How's it going?"

(Trying to mix something in a bowl too dense to mix without a jackhammer) "It is really quite hard."
The problem is: you can't just switch off this show. Everyone is eating it.

So we sat down at the table and were presented with a bowl of stuff that if I took my glasses off could have been mistaken for breakfast cereal. Unfortunately, there was one sense that wasn't going to escape this show.

My reaction, like most caring parents in this situation, was to wait and see whether others survived before delving in myself. Our 4 year old seemed happy to dig right in. She liked it (and ended up finishing her entire bowl). Our 10 year old was less sure but had the good sense not to complain. The cook himself displayed some uncertainty after the first bite but kept going. Their mother smiled and thanked him for the wonderful meal doing her best Meryl Streep in the process which is even harder given the amount of chewing that was required.

That prompted me to suggest that surely she didn't have enough but she covered without losing a beat and said, "surely we want there to be enough for the children should they want more."

So the moment of truth came for me. I'll tell you this much, it was not something I had tasted before. It had the consistency of broken crackers, the coolness of frozen cheese and another quite tangy ingredient that I couldn't place.
"Umm. What's in it?"

"Well, first I took some seaweed rice crackers and corn rice cakes and blended them together. I mixed in some grated cheese which I took from the freezer because I didn't have time to let it warm up and then I added three bottles of Yakult." (Yakult is a milky drink that is designed to ensure that 'good' bacteria stays in your stomach although in this case, I am not hopeful of their survival.)

"Yes, you can really taste the Yakult. I am certain we are the first people to ever taste this. How do you like it?"

"Well, I don't mean to be rude to myself, but I don't really want to finish this."

"That's OK. How about giving what you have left to your mother who finished all hers?"
That prompted a look that suggested I might want to leave home ... quickly. Alas, with this thing in my stomach that it was not clear could be digested, I really was in no position to run anywhere.