It wasn’t all success, however. We had our dismal failures, lots of them. When we made Fried Chocolate Kumquat Spring Rolls, the room’s freezer failed to freeze the chocolate ganache into a bar that could be rolled and deep fried. The kids ended up rolling melting, thick, oozing kumquat-laced chocolate into spring roll wrappers. They were covered head to toe in chocolate. The kids spent the cooking time licking themselves.
Once, I made a kid cry after he threw a ball of home-made pasta dough through the air (picture a pint-sized Russian shot-putter) and onto the dirty public school floor. I was pissed and lost it for a second. I barked at him and his face crumpled, tears came. I was horrified. But we talked it out. We came out better on the other end.
And I got to know the kids. I stopped being “Lucy’s mom” and became “Kim”. We knew each other, our limits, our gifts. We had been through the wars together. We had a real relationship, shorthand, inside jokes, the whole thing, and that felt pretty damn amazing.
I had packed several boxes of linguine in my bag, as a plan B in case it all went to hell, and the day turned into a spaghetti boil served with the kid’s marinara. Every piece of flatbread and dollop of cheese was devoured.
You‘re probably reading this and thinking that I did most of the cooking for the kids, that I let them stir the pot or let them watch me flip the latkes in the frying pan, but I didn’t. Truth is, I’m as blown away as anyone. These kids can’t tie their own shoes, but when given some direction and supplies, they can make dumplings, dough and all, from scratch. Most parents can’t do that.
And maybe that’s the lesson here – cooking with small kids isn’t about learning math by measuring cups of flour, or following a picture recipe, or being able to tell an olive from an avocado. It’s about the pure enjoyment of creating something together, the process of being a part of something that is occasionally ugly, filled with disappointments, frayed nerves and monotony, and sometimes outrageously funny, happy, surprising and satisfying.