I don't want him eating my husband's Haagen Dazs, so I say that he can have something else. He is not satisfied: "How do you make ice cream anyway?"
"You use heavy cream and you freeze it. You might want to look it up."
He runs to the computer and starts Googling. I'm envisioning a trip to the grocery store, to buy heavy cream which I clearly do not have in the house. He finds a recipe for ice cream using ziploc bags and milk. It is chocolate-flavored and we have all the ingredients on hand. First he is writing out the ingredients, then he is cutting and pasting into Word, trying to fit the recipe on one page.
|Gathering the ingredients.|
|Little brother lends a hand|
|They are fighting over who gets to shake the bags.|
|Rolling the can back and forth|
|Doling out the goodies.|
When I was growing up, my mother had two cookbooks. One of them was imposing The Book of Healthy and Tasty Food. Being a bit like my oldest, only lacking Internet, I read it. I was inspired. The recipe that stood out for me was sea turtle soup. It started like this: cut the head and the flippers off the turtle, rinse the carcass...
The truth was, the turtle was never available in the grocery store. It was not available in my parents' lifetime, either. It was not the sort of recipe that you actually made, it was the recipe to aspire to, one day. Maybe my mother could kid herself in her childhood: in ten years we will live during communism, and then turtle will be available, and I will be able to choose whether to make turtle soup or not. I was harboring no such illusions. In fact, the recipes mentioned cream. I do not recall once eating it. There was ice cream, from a cart outside, with my mother determining whether it was safe to eat or not (she worked as a supervisor for food control, so eating out of the house was a taboo, or a very risky proposition at best). I did not aspire to cream, but I read, in that same book, that a polite meal included a nicely set table, with napkins.
I was probably about ten when I approached my mother with the same proposition. I knew better than to ask her to use our china (for guests only), but we had paper napkins, and I wanted to use them, probably as a substitute for turtle soup and cream. I was met with a lot of reluctance. As I recall, we did use them, but they were just laid out and then collected at the end of the meal, to be used at some other occasion. There was also probably a verbal message of wastefulness which went along, but my dreams of culinary freedom were not to be.
Most likely I am making up for my childhood desires by indulging my kids in their cooking escapades. I want them to be more active in the kitchen, I want them to be adventurous, to make delicious things, to dream of making delicious things. I often stop them, too: I am too tired, I want food to be done with in the most efficient way possible, I don't have a high tolerance for mess, I worry about them messing up the recipe and wasting food. Yet we live in a total abundance. We can afford to waste whatever goes into any particular recipe (maybe not a turtle soup, but turtles are not kosher anyway, so we are safe). And that look of satisfaction, that freedom to eat what you desire, and the ability to make what you want: isn't it worth it?