The Write to Cook: Two Men and the Little Chef
Mom and Dad both worked hard.
Mom was a high school teacher, and Dad worked as an insurance claims adjuster. Most childhood meals were eaten at a restaurant or brought home.
I believed Mom could cook if she put her mind to it, but she never showed interest. Daughter of the feminist movement, she chose to shape her knowledge of the world.
Dad tried to cook. Through the years, he has improved from making starch-filled meals full of potatoes and rice to providing a variety.
My Grandmother Dickinson’s apple cake, which I made at Christmas.
Since I began cooking in college, I attempted to reconnect to the time spent with both of my grandmothers in their kitchens. One worked as a teacher and came home to cook. The other was a homemaker.
Although ambition drove me to chase a writing and teaching career, I also yearned for tradition. I found the kitchen was the place I went when I needed a break from writing and editing, and it also inspired me.
In the old days, some women bonded in the kitchen. I ended up with two and a half men in mine.
Many families affected by the economy live in a multigenerational household. My family is one of them. We share a small kitchen in which we wash dishes by hand.
My husband and I cooked breakfast together.
This space – a place that was once my sacred room when I was a partial stay-at-home mother – is shared by my father, husband, son and sometimes my brother.
Dad, John and I work as much as we can, and we know work awaits us at home. We prepare meals for a family of six and our kitchen space shrinks.
“Don’t you want to let people flavor that to their taste?” my husband asked before one breakfast.
“That’s the way my grandmother made them,” I replied.
“Things can change, can’t they?”
“You know how your dad likes to put random spices on things?”
“Yes, and he doesn’t look at what goes in like I do.”
One, two, three and then four of us will end up in the kitchen on any given night. The little one, our son, wants to bring his little bike in the kitchen. All of us chase the little chef out.
For the most part, the boys’ club lets me decide what we’re doing. But they are also strong-minded men with their own opinions about the kitchen.
“Mother and Thomas are tired of chicken,” Dad says at least two weeks out of the month.
“I would make a vegetarian meal, but I’m the only one who would eat it,” I say. “I go with what we have in the freezer or in the fridge. If one of them wants to go to the market, great.”
I admit I have a little bit of an attitude sometimes. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the desire to keep everything organized does not always work in my family or the kitchen.
Dad wants to work like an octopus, and my husband sits down at the table after my parents and brother have already finished their meals.
As exasperated as I become with no dishwasher, three working burners, someone taking up my counter space or one of the beloved men in my life directing me in the kitchen; I realized we have created a new tradition.
We also laugh in the kitchen.
John throws ice down my shirt.
Dad plays, sings and imitates family members. He is one of the few people who shares my sarcasm.
Then there’s the little boy who stops in and asks if one of us will put on his helmet so he can ride his bike through the kitchen.
Last night, as I made Shepherd’s Pie, I discovered a red toy car in a drawer with the blender. I smiled and called for my little chef.
By Rebecca T. Dickinson