How to cook with a 10-year-old:
First, crack a beer. Next, put on Pandora. Accept that he refuses to wear an apron. Take five deep breaths. Explain to Rose, age 8, that no, when you take a deep breath it doesn’t mean you’re annoyed, just that you’re remembering to calm your system. Get out the ingredients for the chocolate cake Col visioned this morning, lobbying for “recipe creation” to replace your ideas of writing practice.
When Col forgoes your suggestion to cut the butter in even pieces for melting and instead drag-zooms the whole stick around the hot pan, sizzles of smoking fat shedding off the yellow rectangle, remind yourself that he comes from a long line of men who don’t like taking instruction from others. Feel the jungle drums of your nervous system signaling that the prim and merciless schoolmarm has stepped into your psyche.
Let the schoolmarm off for the night and say with what you hope is a gentle voice, “Honey, is it fun to melt butter that way? Do you notice the butter is smoking?” Remember that while Col is a beginner in the kitchen, he sees himself as contender for Top Chef of the Needham Neighborhood.
Take five more deep breaths and a long swig of beer. Remember that you also rarely follow recipes, that you haven’t mastered the art of taking instruction from Dan after 19 years together. Remember that Col wants to be here, that he turned down his sister’s invitation to play outside so he could cook with you. Remember that the rebel genes come from your side of the family and did not skip over you.
Watch Col spill – accidentally – copious amounts of poofy tapioca flour on the countertop and on the floor, watch him lick butter off the spatula, wonder why beating four eggs has to be so loud. Remind yourself that this cooking together is a new iteration of your relationship. Be determined to show up for it.
Find a way to casually remind Col to fold the flour into the wet ingredients with a light touch, we’re not mixing concrete, even though you’re quite sure you’ve mentioned this once or twice or 10 times before.
Feel thankful that in your own home you can sing along loudly to Pandora. In fact, this may be the crucial ingredient, the backup support to cooking with a 10-year-old. “Spirit in the Sky,” “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” “Late for the Sky.” Notice that belting out, “Gotta have a friend in Jeeeesus,” loosens something in your jacked-up spine.
Hold the pot while Col scrapes the batter into the cast iron. Together, lick the spatula, the fork, the chocolately-gooey sides of the pot, congratulating yourselves that this is gonna be a good one. Feel the excitement and satisfaction of creating something together. Put the timer on for 35 minutes and let Col run outside to find his sister while you happily, singingly, clean up the kitchen alone.
Pull the hot cake out of the oven. Watch the kids gather like vultures, inhaling chocolate steam like it’s a mineral in which they’re deficient. Mill around impatiently waiting for the cake to cool. Lose the battle of patience and cut into it too soon, lifting a piece of scorching, spongy, dark brown cake to your mouth. Taste the gooey deliciousness and know that everything is going to be OK.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.