How I Taught My Brother To Cook

Improvisational Tuscan-Provençal-Catalan Cookery (and other good stuff to eat)

This is a little story about one man's learning experience ... cooking with his 5 year old son

Cooking With Dexter
in the New York Times Sunday magazine March 7, 2010.

Teaching kids to eat well and how to cook can work both ways:

Writes Pete Wells (BTW Dexter is 5):

"If I am cooking and Dexter is awake, then we’re together. I try not to let him see me snarl in the kitchen, as I try to hide all my bad
qualities, and not just because I want him to like me. I want him to
learn the right things from me. I will be pleased if he goes off to
college knowing how to dress a salad, and less pleased if a lettuce leaf limp with excess oil makes him curse and invert the bowl over the rug.

When Dexter is at the stove, neither failure nor success surprises him. Watch him bake: he freestyles like a snowboarder. Yes, he uses measuring cups and spoons, but for him they are simply handy
conveyances for transferring baking powder and sugar from their
canisters to the mixing bowl. When he levels off a cup of flour with
the back of a knife, he is thinking about aesthetics, not ratios. He
and I add milk or water until what’s in the bowl looks like dough, or
like batter. If we go too far with the liquid, he’ll add back some
flour. I understand that seasoned professionals can bake this way. What
I find hard to fathom is that it works for kindergartners too.

Baking is chemistry. So goes the cliché, and in its thrall I have gone to great lengths to ensure the kind of precision that leads to perfection.
Watch me bake: I measure like a jeweler. At the height of my craziness
I have sifted flour onto the countertop, then gently spooned it into
several cups. Later, getting all devil-may-care, I spooned flour
carefully out of the canister, after fluffing it up a bit to simulate
the sifting effect. The sad final step in this degeneration would have
been eating raw flour right out of the bag, but I was saved from that
skid-row indignity by my purchase of a cheap digital scale. Weighing is
no less crazy than sifting, but it is a whole lot easier.

I now wonder if any of this is truly necessary. Is baking chemistry? Certainly, chemical reactions take place inside muffin cups, but the
process may not be as exact as I had always imagined. Last weekend a
friend and I worked on a high-tech pizza-dough
recipe, with precisely controlled gluten ratios, yeast strains and
proofing times. I weighed the ingredients, of course. Meanwhile Dexter
threw together a little salt, flour, starter culture, yeast and water.
His crust wasn’t as delicious as the high-tech one, but it was
significantly better than what about 95 percent of the world routinely
accepts as pizza.

Dexter has yet to invent a recipe worth writing down, but at his side I have begun to see that thoroughly screwing up in the kitchen is a lot harder than I previously thought. In that
spirit, I recently served 40 people a pot of burned beans."

God, I love kids - so much better than adults.

Views: 33

Comment by Patrick on March 13, 2010 at 5:32am
Why are there no cooking shows for kids, by kids? I guess we should get the ball rolling!


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