Every once in a while you've got to just turn your kids loose in the kitchen. My recipe for Graham Cracker pie will go down in history as the single best recipe developed and conceived by a four year old. I kid you not. Mom was busy, I managed to get the oven on thanks to the creative use of a couple of phone books and a step stool, and I was just getting ready to place said pie in the oven when mom realized I had been quiet long enough to be dangerous.
Oh, I'll share the recipe with you if you insist. I believe it was smashed graham crackers, water, and a couple of shakes of cinnamon sugar. I couldn't reach the chocolate chips that mom had stashed away for emergencies like PMS and kids baking.
Our 1970s oven was chocolate brown. I can still see it as my little hands reached for the dial. I wonder what setting I was planning to bake it on? Perhaps nuclear broil and that's actually what alerted mom to my presence in the kitchen.
Oh, but I'm wandering.
I'm a strong believer in learning to cook by feel. I once cooked with someone who followed a recipe for garlic mashed potatoes. She actually measured the five pound bag of potatoes she had purchased to see if they were really five pounds as the recipe dictated. I know that my cooking style would have made better potatoes in less time and with less kitchen utensil use. (Boil them, mash them, throw in some cream cheese if you've got it, sour cream if you don't, a little milk, and roasted garlic or fresh minced, or whatever, sprinkle with fresh chives, or not...Garlic Mashers for Six with Leftovers and no Kitchen Scale Use)
Mom taught me how to cook without recipes. Unless you're baking, it's not that hard. Baking requires a certain amount of measuring, but I still get experimental.
Young One loves to peel apples with our handy dandy apple peeler corer slicer (HDAPCS for short). He was bored. He needed something to do. I challenged him to make apple crisp, but do so without a recipe. "Impossible," my follow the rules, color inside the lines, guy says.
I was up for the challenge and feeling particularly patient, two things required of one if you wish to be in the kitchen with kids. I also was willing to put up with a moderate amount of mess.
So, I walked him through making crisp.
Apples-peeled, cored, and sliced-- he was all over this one.
"Now, they need to be sweet and a little flavored, what are you going to do?"
"Cinnamon and sugar?"
"We have a BINGO."
"How are you going to keep them from sticking in the pan?"
"Nonstick spray." Another task he loves, although I'm still wiping it off the back splash, thank you very much.
On to the topping. And we went back and forth on how to make it, what to put in it, how to mix it, etc. It was a fun time. And the result was pretty darn good. I encouraged him to put in some pears that were making the still life of our fruit bowl a little less attractive. He doubted this would work, but went along with my spirit of creativity. He added a dash of vanilla to the filling just because, and it was a delightful addition.
Basically, I told him that if you have courage and smarts, you can cook. And since he has both, he was downright successful.
The crisp was good. He now can impress his future bride with his talents someday and we'll move on to learning other recipes.
When we were done, he said, "Hey mom, this is like cooking without a net."
Why yes, it is.