Do you have fond childhood memories of cooking? My mother taught me to bake and I grew up believing all children enjoyed helping out in the kitchen.
Then I became a custodial stepmom to five kids.
Even though I’m not a great cook, I enjoy my time in the kitchen. But somehow, I’ve got a house full of kids that can’t follow a recipe.
This might be my fault. When we first became a family, there seemed to be more voluntary help with cooking. There were a few kid cookbooks and some recipes they liked to make. Gradually, that all fell by the wayside.
Was it because now I had a spot in the kitchen where before only Dad did the cooking? Perhaps. He still does most of it, but I do my share—though he’s bolder about “requesting” their help than I am.
They seem to think they can perform a chore so badly that we’ll never ask them for help again. The youngest girl has been pulling this stunt for a while with regards to prepping green beans, but every time her dad makes them, he pulls her into the kitchen.
Dad: Eventually, you’ll get so good at this that you won’t have time to complain.
Or maybe it was math that drove them away. In a family our size, standard recipes don’t cover us. We have to at least double them; inevitably, this involves multiplying fractions. Our middle girl was thrilled to help make the pancakes until this realization dawned on her.
She yelled out from the kitchen, “Daddy’s making me do math! On a Sunday morning!”
Whatever the reason, I have marked the gradual decline in interest that all the kids have in cooking. Only the 18-year-old has learned that if you can bake, you can always make yourself a treat. She has a recipe I refer to as “Get Your Own Cookie!” It makes one.
I’ve witnessed more interesting kitchen fails than I ever anticipated. One of the girls made chocolate chip cookies and forgot to add the sugar. Not coincidentally, this is the same girl who once sent over 18,000 text messages in a single billing cycle. Her cookie mishap was due to textbaking.
Our green bean girl made the same recipe and neglected to add both the salt and the chocolate chips. When the boy made it, he interpreted “1¼ c. flour” to mean “a quarter cup of flour.” His cookies turned into some kind of brittle that the kids then chipped away at until we threw it away.
Last week, I was out of time and left the 18-year-old a recipe for turkey meatloaf to make for dinner. When my husband called to check in, they were eating leftover pizza. The meatloaf was dubbed a fail.
Back home, I discovered the turkey exactly where it had been in the fridge, but now wrapped up. The failed meatloaf was there too. It smelled great, but had no turkey in it.
Me: So what happened with dinner?
#2: I followed the recipe. It just didn’t turn out right.
Me: Umm…you didn’t put any turkey in it.
#2: Yes I did! I measured it out on the scale. I cocked my head.
Me: It should have taken the whole package.
#2: The package was six pounds. It called for 1.25 pounds.
Me: No, the Costco package of four is six pounds total. Each one is a pound a half but we just use the whole thing. Didn’t it seem like not very much turkey?
Me: I think maybe you measured ounces. Or grams. Or something.
#2: I don’t really know how to use the scale.
Or, apparently, how to conceptualize weight.
This is the same girl who graduated a few weeks ago with academic honors. She even got to wear a medal for it. Some of her academics required her to do measurements and weigh things and perform calculations. I’m positive of this.
As a peace offering, she left a whole plate of brownies (recipe properly doubled) on the counter.
I’d call that meatloaf a win after all.
GET YOUR OWN COOKIE!
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp beaten egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Cream butter and sugars in a bowl with fork. Add egg and vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add to wet mixture; fold in chocolate chips.
- On a cookie sheet covered with either a silicone sheet or parchment paper, place batter in center and bake 14–15 minutes.
Makes One. Don’t Share.
JM Randolph is a writer, stagehand and custodial stepmom of five. She lives in New Jersey with her family and blogs at accidentalstepmom.com.