Being unemployed around the holidays does have its perks. Not many, but some. One of those perks is that I can spend more time with my son while he is on Winter Break and teach him some pretty neat things that I would not have been able to if I had a job. Don't get me wrong, I really, really, really, wish I had a job right now, but...
Anyway, the last lesson he learned from me was about cooking. Yes, I said cooking. Thanks to my mother teaching me when I was a kid (see, Mom, I did listen to some things you said!), I have some inkling of a idea of what I am supposed to do while in the kitchen. My feeble attempt to pass the minimal knowledge I have on to my son is met with the same enthusiasm I must have shown when I was the pupil. Sorry, Mom, I should have listened more! Maybe he will retain the lessons, like I did, somehow...hopefully.
The main lesson I try to always teach him is, a good cook always cleans up after him or herself. This is the main lesson my mother taught me, but now that I am wiser, I am wondering if she really believed that, or if it was just a ploy to get me to clean up after her, instead of her after me, like any other day. Either way, I am using the lesson for both reasons, now. Yes, you should clean up after yourself, but something tells me a top-notch chef has his/her own crew to clean up after them...but don't tell that to my son.
Another lesson I was trying to teach him was that a good cook knows the taste of different spices and foods and is able to mix-and-match items that would taste good together without needing someone else to tell them it would work. For example, if I am preparing a dish that calls for cheddar cheese and I, uhhh, I mean my son, happened to eat all of the cheddar cheese the other day while making melted cheese and crackers for a late night snack, I would know that the Colby cheese we have in the fridge is similar to cheddar and it would probably work well as a substitute. Just as I would know that Swiss cheese would give the dish a completely different flavor.
I also mentioned that a good cook is able to create his or her own dishes from throwing together various ingredients that he or she knows would work well together. I used an example of what not to do, based on my personal experimentation when I was a youngin' and decided to put cinnamon (I love cinnamon) in spaghetti sauce (I love spaghetti, so why not mix the two!?!?), along with a few other spices I had lying around. Needless to say, I learned from my mistake and cinnamon no longer comes anywhere near my spaghetti sauce!
What I failed to realize is, his little wheels were turning and turning, concocting a new dish in his mind as I spoke. Since dinner was already made and in the oven, he decided he was going to make dessert...without my help! So, in a sense, he was actually listening to me...he never listens when I say put your socks away, clean up your toys when you are done, or wear your coat in the cold weather, so why would I think he would listen now? Here's what he made...
Grabbing a few round pita-like bread pieces for the base, he spread Nutella as the first ingredient. Clearly wanting more, he then reached for the chocolate sauce, marshmallows, apples, grapes, strawberries, a Snickers bar from Halloween, and...wait for it...cinnamon. Uh-oh, I thought..not the cinnamon! Now, normally I would be ok with strawberries and chocolate, or marshmallows and Nutella, and maybe even a little cinnamon on an apple slice...hey, I might even go for a Snickers bar and grapes, but generally, I would not want all of these ingredients placed on a 100% whole wheat, healthy piece of pita bread...with cinnamon.
Fortunately, I was able to convince him that the apples, strawberries and grapes should be put on after the dessert sandwiches came out of the oven (the marshmallows had to melt, of course). He placed it in the hot oven for a few minutes then asked me to help him take it out - smart kid! I tried to hide my unenthusiastic look as best I could when I saw the warmed product.
So, here he had made a dessert from scratch, baked it, placed the fruit on top, and was anxiously waiting for us to eat it. But, I must say, the final presentation of the dish was very beautiful, and it almost look like it was made by a seasoned cook...but I still knew what it was made of.
As I hesitated to allow my taste buds to sample his perceived delicacy, I wondered what I was going to do if it was atrocious. I shuttered at the thought of the healthy pita holding the sweets together. I was afraid, very afraid. Obviously, I did not want to squish any future desires for him to cook, and I certainly did not want to hurt his feelings after his valiant effort, so I practiced my surprised and pleased face in my mind, waiting for the right moment to let it show.
I took a bite...hmmmmm....yeah, there's the cinnamon...but just a hint of it...nice...yum, there's the chocolate sauce and melted marshmallows....hmmm, like a s'more...not bad....Snickers bar piece...uh-huh...tasty...and the pita...crunchy enough from the oven that it all blended together rather well. HA! I did not have to fake it! It was actually, okay! I don't think it will make the dessert menu at Legal Seafood or Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, but it wasn't bad, I must say. Yes, I was impressed...that is, until the next day when he wanted to do it again, but with white sandwich bread (he used all of the pita), Nutella, cinnamon, and cheese...