Top Chef: Kindergarten

by Abby on December 30, 2011

One of the best things about our holiday this year is that we didn’t go anywhere. No packing, no traveling, no traffic or flight delays. We got to stay home, snug as a bug in a rug. (Which is actually kind of a gross expression when you think about it.)

Girl wearing chef's hatOn the morning of Christmas Eve, Miles and I were snuggled up on the couch watching cooking shows. You might think that stay-at-home moms have this kind of quality leisure time with their kids all the time. You’d be wrong. Between shuttling to school and activities, household chores, and generally keeping up with life, there is rarely time to just BE, which is why this particular day was so great.

So there we were, watching Paula Deen whip up a bunch of holiday appetizers. Miles says, “Mmm, that looks good. We should make that, Mom.” Sure, why not? Then Giada DeLaurentiis comes on, then “Cupcake Wars,” and so on and so on. By the time we were done, we had a half-dozen recipes selected.

And that’s how, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I found myself making baked brie with fig preserves, spinach-and-feta stuffed mushrooms, Maryland crab cakes, shrimp scampi, and cherries jubilee. My mother, husband, sister-in-law and I were slaving away in the kitchen ALL DAY LONG, picking shells out of crabmeat, peeling shrimp, scrubbing mushrooms, and de-pithing citrus. (Is that even a thing? De-pithing?) The results were delicious, but MY WORD, what a lot of work! That’s the last time I let a kindergartener choose the menu.

But guess what? It’s true: if you let kids participate in the meal preparation, they’re more likely to eat it. With wide eyes, I watched my 5yo eye a spinach-stuffed mushroom suspiciously, then pop it into his mouth and say, “Mmm, I like it.” Sadly, the 2.5yo wasn’t game. He was too busy rifling back chips and double-dipping his baby carrots.

As you may recall, my normal culinary exploits are limited to one-dish meals that require as little time and as few ingredients as possible. So while the Food Network gang pushed me outside my comfort zone, I did learn a lot this Christmas, including:

My kitchen is poorly equipped for gourmet cooking. I have one remaining mixing bowl from a supposedly shatter-proof 3-bowl set. We have one sharpish knife and one good cutting board. My mom was continually disappointed when she’d ask, “Don’t you have an apple corer/shrimp deveiner/serrated paring knife?!” No, but we do have a wide range of corkscrews and 2 ice cream scoops.

My husband and I do not cook well together. He’s a bit of a diva, if you want the truth. I accuse him of being a “glory chef,” which means he swoops in on holidays, clears everyone out of the kitchen, whips up some fancy food, and gets all the glory. Meanwhile, I slave away day after day, churning out breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, without any praise or applause whatsoever. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Paula, Giada, et al brainwash you. You watch their shows and think, “I can do that. That looks so easy. Look, it only took her 30 min., including commercial breaks. And she didn’t even mess up her hair!” Then you realize you need to use a melon baller (which I do own!) to scoop out the insides of the mushrooms to make them stuffable. And that working with phyllo dough is not nearly as simple as it appears. You may also realize, “Whoa! I’m serving my children a flammable, alcoholic dessert!” I did, and it was great. Cherries jubilee, anyone?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello December 30, 2011 at 8:17 am

Now this was really a fun post, had all the ingredients of greatness…food, Divas, drama, sharp knives, and alcohol. YAHOO!!!

I have no idea what some of those tools are and every time we are tempted to do some culinary adventures, we look at one another, laugh like cwaazzzzy people and call for reservations.

I think that your kitchen tools are just fine…some corkscrews for wine and ice cream scoops for the necessities of life…voila, what more does a person need?!
A very Happy New Years to all, and to all a good night. Oh, that’s pretty cool, think I’ll trademark that. 🙂

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Abby December 30, 2011 at 7:26 pm

You make reservations! You kill me, Lou. 🙂 Happy New Year to you, too!

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