Friday, June 25, 2010

Do You Know the Muffin Man

I suspect that when Sophia looks back at this summer, she'll remember it as the summer she learned to cook.  Or more precisely, the summer her mother stopped giving a damn.  The poor kid is only eleven and I've kind of checked out.  Not that she minds.  As long as she can make herself a grilled cheese, she's cool with it.

This isn't really a new dynamic for us.  She's been a latchkey kid since she was too young to be.  By the time she was able to stand on a chair to turn on the stove, open a Campbell's soup can and empty the contents into a pan, she's been ready to be on her own.  Sadly, Georgia does not issue work permits or drivers' licenses to six year olds.

So far this summer Phia has mastered cake from a mix, homemade buttercream frosting from the Wilton recipe, grilled cheese sandwiches, beef and broccoli stir fry and pie crust.  "Mom, you have to stay out of the kitchen while I do this" has become the rule.  Fine with me.  I've got porn to surf.  Besides, she can read.  She can follow a recipe.  She doesn't need me hovering about.  And when she does need me, we yell back and forth across the house, but I do not cross the threshold of the kitchen.  It's like a Gordon Ramsey scene without all the swearing and ego.  Mostly.

"Try this."  She thrust a buttercream covered beater into my face mid-twitter.  I hit tweet and took a lick.

"Excellent."  And it was. Sweet, but not too sweet.  The consistency was perfect.

"Can I frost the cake now?"

"Knock yourself out, sister."  I took another lick.

"Mom, when can I learn to do the filling for a pie or a cake from scratch?"

"Oh, we still have July, right?"  This is me trying to wiggle out of commitment.

"Yes, but you promised.  You said..."

I held up my hand to cut her off.  "I don't remember that.  And if I did say, it was probably while I was still sharing the office with the litter boxes.  The contact high from cat urine makes me say all kinds of things I don't mean."

Her face drooped. Then she got an idea.  Logic.  Yeah, logic works with me.

"Please?  What good is it to know how to make a pie crust if I can't make the filling?"  She parried.

"Good point.   But at least you have the satisfaction of knowing that you can do something lots of adults can't do."  I dodged.

She crossed her arms over her chest and stared at me with those root beer eyes.  If logic wouldn't do the trick, then brown-eyed manipulation would.

I hate her sometimes.

"Fine.  This weekend.  Okay?  We'll make another chocolate chess pie.  Or how about a chocolate cream pie like Grandma makes?"

"Good.  Okay.  And the cake from scratch?"

"Look, let's not push it.  We have five more weeks before school starts."


We're still working on the clean as you go method, but good for her.  She's going to be far more self-sufficient than those other two layabouts. That's partly my fault.  I'm such a control freak I didn't invite them into the kitchen as much.  Come to think of it, though, Sophie invited herself.   And when I attempted to shoo her out, she resisted.  She's always been determined to learn her way around the kitchen.  Before she was tall enough to reach the counter, I'd have barely said the words "Ah, not right now, sweetie, why don't you go watch...." before she was standing on a chair next to me, her little apron tied around her waist.

At least when she informs me that she plans to live with me forever, I know that means I'm set for desserts.


  1. We're still working on the "clean as you go" method at my house, too, but we're all in our forties.

    I see a cake (or pie) business looming in the near future for you two ....

  2. Sophia is fast becoming my favorite child of yours.

  3. Oh that is so cute. My boo boo likes to help too, and I need to lighten up about letting her do some stuff - but I am working on it! We made brownies from a mix the other night.

    We have made muffins and cookies from scratch - she is too little for pie yet.

    I wish she could live with me forever...

  4. Totally not a comment on your parenting, but the beginning of this post reminded me of a book of essays I read several years back called How I Learned to Cook and mumblemumblesubtitleIforgot. It's about complicated mother/daughter relationships, which is why I said NOT a comment on your parenting. I just thought it was a good book of first hand essays you might enjoy since your writer's voice seems to really shine in first person nonfiction.

  5. yep. My 14 year old son has been cooking his own meals since he was about 11 too. We still have a Family Dinner at least 4 days a week - but the other three days my son really enjoys making his own food. And quite frankly so do I!

  6. As if I didn't love her enough and forever ever ever before this! Oh, Sophia, you are just so amazing!

  7. Quite similar to our youngest. Our oldest is likely to subsist on veggies and ramen.

  8. It's good that she's learning. My ex was shch a bad cook that sometimes the dog growled at me for trying to give it my dinner under the table.

  9. Dear Sophia,

    Please have your mum check her email. I sent you some recipes.



  10. I think it's very cool that Sophia wants to learn to cook and bake. I don't cook in my tiney NYC apartment, but I do bake when I go down to my brother's place. I want the kids to see that cookies and cakes don't have to come from a bakery or supermarket. And they prefer the home made stuff. Interestingly, it's the third kid who is most interested in learning how to cook. Hmmm.

  11. What a CUTEY! And, like Sue J, I have never mastered "the clean as you go" method. I have the cook as if you had a team of servants to clean up after you. I wouldn't recommend that you teach your darling girl my methods.

  12. Your cupcake and mine would get along splendidly. I've kind of checked out too. Working all day kinda sucks the passion out of cooking and housekeeping. But she can make entire batches of cookies, cake from scratch, brownies, scrambled eggs, and pancakes.

  13. The Genius, also 11 with root beer eyes, surprised me the other day when he made quesadillas without asking on his own. The only polite thing to say was, "Thank you," as he brought me some and they were delicious. Oh, and it was after about the 5th "I'm hungry," that he just gave up and did it himself."

  14. So much of this was familiar... They learn more on their own, with a little room and some "neglect" than they ever do from all our teaching/preaching. It's part of our homeschooling philosophy. Learning is not necessarily connected to teaching...

    Example: Youngest and I took our long unused canoe out for a little trip in the heat this morning, and I let him run the boat on the way back. He paddled and figured out that he could turn it into the wakes of passing boats faster by back paddling than by any other method. I had forgotten to point that out (along with nearly everything else except the "stroke/twist/rudder" move, which isn't intuitive, but is the key to controlling a canoe). I sat in the front, daydreamed, and watched the bald eagles fly by. I had been asked to "not paddle" so he could see all the effect his paddling and steering was having on the canoe. He was OK dealing with my "dead weight" (my phrase) in the front... He's eleven. It's a terrific age for learning, as you can tell from your own...

  15. I think there's something to be said for benign neglect and being a little less than neat. I never was allowed to learn to cook at home because my mother couldn't tolerate my messy learning process in her perfect kitchen. But my grandmother didn't care if I got flour all over her countertops. When I was very young she even allowed me to bake actual mud pies from out in the yard in her oven. Something about a playful and forgiving spirit inspires creativity and real learning. You're a great mom! :)

    (Oh, and I'm nearing 40 and have yet to master the whole clean-as-you-go thing. I just make a royal mess and then try to "inspire" my husband to clean up after me.)

  16. Good for her! :) I was never that into cooking, even though my Mom tried to get me to learn how to cook many times when I was young. I think you should foster her love of cooking as much as you can--she'll find it very useful in her life. :)

  17. I'm absolutely a clean as you go person. I think more people ought to be as well, especially males. They still do less work most of the time than women do.


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