Yesterday, L hollers from the living room where baby C is lying beside her, “Mama, come quick!” I dash into the living room assuming a minor baby sister vs.little big sister crisis “What’s up?” I ask. “Chuck is on! Sit down with me! Ummm, yumm, he’s making creamed spinach, I like spinach!” That’d be Chuck Hughes, from Chuck’s Day Off, and a Montreal restaurant we tried to go to last spring but it was closed much to the heartbreak of my five year old. So if Chuck ever reads this, perhaps, he can give us a call, and let us know what the hours are so I can bring my escargot eating, French-rack of lamb-requesting, gianduja cake-making children for dinner. When I relayed this anecdote to my partner, he wasn't particularly surprised; nor was he surprised when I told him R had also watched Chuck and now wants me to make her a tempura runny egg.
This situation is not unusual in our house. My girls and I are constantly watching one or the other of our favourite food shows and then recreating the meals. It's been this way since I was pregnant with R and had a few weeks off work before I gave birth. I’d watch cooking shows, walk to the market and buy the ingredient for one or more dishes I’d just seen made and go home and cook. Rather than stop, this “habit” grew when I became a mama. Because all of a sudden, I didn’t just have a hungry audience (Mark) , I had a rapt audience member (R). I recently confessed to my girls that I often pretend I’m hosting a cooking show while I’m cooking. And as a mama of girls that love to help me cook or bake and enjoy food as much as I do, they completely understand. Well, that, and they are 3 and almost 6, so pretending to cook for a panel of judges or an audience, comes naturally to them. But, I digress.
So, yes, I have a running narrative mostly in my head but often out loud, as I prep and cook. I rarely cook anything fancy anymore and based on my presentation alone never mind my rule breaking) I would definitely be told to “please pack my knives and go.” But, here, in my home, I am a top chef mama. My girls will try anything once. Often more than once. They have been my prep cooks since they could pull the leaves off a sprig of rosemary. They are highly opinionated on what should be eaten with what; they live for the farmer’s market and grocery shopping in general, and have been known to eat a lunch of artisan bread dipped in olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and a hunk of stinky cheese just as easily as they slurp up pasta puntanesca, dig into tongue curry, lentils, and basmati rice, or chow down on lamb burgers with a boursin centre topped with a tomato confit. Don’t get me wrong, there are days they start randomly picking carmelized onions out of their dish, and take grimacing sips of roasted red pepper-tomato soup. But unlike a top chef, I don’t have to take the criticism, and here at home, the judges can pack their plates and starve or hunker down and eat it.
Who do you cook for?