Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cooking with the Malleycats

Before Seth and I were married we had the pleasure of dating long-distance for 2 1/2 years. It involved talking on the phone a lot. It required road trips and plane trips and holiday travel. I longed for the day we could do "normal" things like go grocery shopping together, do laundry and run errands. So I decided that the next time Seth came to town I would make Seth dinner at home like "normal" couples. Problem was.....I didn't know how to cook. At all. I lived across the parking lot from a Del Taco for crying out loud. A classic chicken burrito with green sauce was always cheap, always good, and always fast--so cooking wasn't something I ever did. You didn't have to cook cereal, or yogurt, or sandwiches...and so I had made it through most of my college years without ever really needing to cook. This hadn't ever posed a problem.... until now. I wanted to cook for Seth, but what in the world would I make? I set out to find something I could make to really impress him. I went to the store and bought a bunch of random things thinking something would come to me. I didn't own a cookbook or even know that the Food Network existed, so I was pretty much on my own for this. I decided that pasta would be the best thing to make. How hard could it be? I went to the store and bought what seemed to be the correct ingredients and went home to do a trial run of the meal I would cook for Seth. I made some kind of tomato sauce to go with the pasta and to my utter amazement it was good. Like really good. I couldn't wait to make it for Seth the next week when he was scheduled to come visit for the weekend.

The much-anticipated weekend finally came, and I told Seth about our plans for a delicious home-cooked meal. I started making the sauce for the pasta when I realized that I had no idea what I had actually done the last time I made it. Had I used tomato paste? Or was it diced tomatoes? Was it basil I was supposed to add? How much garlic did I use? I was clueless. I quickly realized that the delicious meal I had made for myself the week before had been nothing more than a very happy accident. I spent nearly two hours trying to rescue my pasta dish by adding a little of this and a little of that, but I knew that when I set it on the table it was not good. Like really not good. We sat down to eat and each took a bite. The look on Seth's face said it all. "Maybe it needs some more salt?" I weakly suggested. We both salted our food and chewed in silence. Then Seth very kindly asked, "Did you follow the recipe?" "I didn't use a recipe" I sheepishly answered. Seth paused for a minute, then finally said, "Maybe you should use a recipe". And that, my friends, is how I first wooed Seth with my amazing culinary skills.

Fast forward to our life as newlyweds. We had just moved across the country to Dover, Delaware where we didn't know a soul. Seth was beginning his first assignment as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force. We lived in a teeny-tiny apartment that was built for Hobbits (It was so small that our couch didn't even fit through the doorway and we had to store it). I didn't have a job yet, and so when Seth went off to work that first day I had a realization that at the end of this day we were going to want to eat dinner. And that I was the person that was going to have to cook this alleged dinner. Then I had a bit of a panic attack. I knew we had been given a few cookbooks for our wedding, so I rifled through boxes until I found the Betty Crocker cookbook. I decided on a recipe (though I don't remember what it was) and then made a shopping list for all the items I would need. I spent seriously half the day shopping and cooking a meal that in reality would probably take 20 minutes to put together. I was very impressed (and Seth very relieved) that it tasted good, and I hadn't burned down the apartment. The next day I had the same realization, and so I did the exact same thing again: Looked through the cookbook until I found something that seemed manageable, shopped for all the ingredients and then spent half a day cooking (and learning what dicing, sauteing, and other terms meant). I did that for many days. Eventually I had a fairly stocked pantry and fridge and meals took less time to prepare and I didn't freak out nearly as much. Shortly after that Seth left for two months to go to Alabama for training, leaving me alone to entertain myself. I would go to work every day at the spacesuit factory (yes, a spacesuit factory) then come home and watch the Food Network and cook dinner. By the time he came home from training I had a new hobby.

Nowadays I'm most comfortable in the kitchen. I love nothing more than cooking for my family and friends. I take cooking classes for fun and read cookbooks like novels. So naturally I want to pass this love on to my kids. Or at least some skills in the kitchen so someday they can actually cook and eat real food in college. It seems like everywhere you look there is a TV show or blog about cooking with your kids. They claim that cooking with your kids is "fun". To that I ask, "Have you ever actually cooked with real-live children before"? It is not "fun" that they make the mess ten times bigger, and that everything takes ten times longer. I have to admit that most of the time when I cook I try to get my kids out of the kitchen so I can just get it done as quickly as possible without little hands making a big mess. So the other day when I read this blog post over at Weelicious (which somehow manages to be awesome while at the same time making me feel bad about my mothering) I decided that I really should make some steps towards not only cooking with my kids, but trying to enjoy it. The recipe she featured seemed easy enough. It didn't require any cooking, heating, or baking of any kind--a definite bonus. Lincoln and Eloise were very excited at the idea of making a treat. Oliver not so much.


He was eventually banned to his chair with a snack while we did the dirty work, but I did release him in time to sample the goods. They were a hit. Also, kids in aprons are cute.



The moral of the story is: I'm gonna give this whole "cooking with my kids" thing a go. I may or may not tell you about it, depending on how well I handle the chaos. If you have any recipes your kids love to make with you, I'd love to hear about it. Bon Appetit!