Sunday I got to share a fun lesson with Phoebe. I wasn’t planning to. I was just going to make us breakfast. I had no idea at when I decided to cook I’d be making a special little toddler moment with the weirdo tiny person who lives in my house.
I can’t be the only person that cleans out the fridge on grocery shopping day. Little odds and ends of things seem to accumulate over the days leading up to shopping day and I can’t bear to throw away food that still can be eaten. I had a few eggs, three pieces of bacon, an old potato, and an old onion. To me, that spells frittata. I fried the pieces of bacon and set them aside. I cubed half the potato and cooked it in the bacon grease. I chopped up half the onion and threw that in there too. I turned around and Phoebe was charging through the kitchen, pushing a chair towards the stove and chirping “Do you want to do cooking? Do you want to do cooking?”
I don’t know why I was surprised. She is always interested when anyone’s cooking in the kitchen, mostly so she can prance around dangerously whenever we try to open the oven or bring a hot pan to the table. I discovered last week if I let her watch what I’m doing while I’m cooking she stays relatively out of the way. Out from under foot, at least. She was pleased as punch the day I let her stand on the kitchen chair and sprinkle pepper on the chicken I was roasting so of course she’d want to drag that chair over again to see what Mommy was up to. Maybe there would be more pepper to sprinkle on additional chickens.
It would have been really easy to tell her to leave Mommy alone, that Mommy was cooking and when Mommy is done she can eat and go play until the food is ready. I could have finished my frittata in relative peace and we could have had a tasty breakfast together, end of story. Instead, I pushed the kitchen chair up to the counter so she could see me cook the potato and onion.
“What are you making?” she asked me. “A frittata.” I answered. She looked confused. I tried to define it in a way she’d grasp. “It’s eggs baked like a pie. It’s an egg pie.” She seemed to understand that. “A egg pie!!” She was excited about the prospect even though she’s never willingly swallowed a molecule of egg. I got out the eggs and cracked one into a bowl. “Do you want hold mine? Do you want hold mine?” she twittered. In Phoebe Language, “Do you want hold mine” means “Can I hold that?” I handed her an egg, which she held using the tips of her fingers like I imagine a eagle would hold something in its talons before it tore it apart. She let me “help her” crack the egg. We got some shell in the bowl. I fished it out. I went to crack another egg, and she demanded she help crack that one. We cracked it. Some shell got in the eggs again. I fished it out again. Repeat for five more eggs.
I figured she’d be excited to mix the eggs with a whisk, and she was. She saw my instruction of “keep the whisk in the eggs while you’re mixing” as an option that could be ignored. She let me help her mix the eggs after I added some milk, so they were properly combined at least. Phoebe was of course very excited to add pepper. She really likes sprinkling spices.
It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. I realized I’d forgotten to Pam the pyrex pie pan after I’d poured half the eggs into it, so I had to dump it back in the bowl, wash the pan, dry the pan, spray the pan, and pour over again. You’ll note that was entirely my fault and not at all something the toddler did. I’d have screwed that up even if she wasn’t there, demanding to touch and hold and mix. I got a big spoon and told her I was going to add the onions, potatoes, and bacon pieces into the eggs. “It’s a job for Chef Mommy!” she exclaimed, immediately followed by “Do you want hold mine?” as I spooned the filling into the pan with the eggs. I had to wince and flinch as she unevenly dumped clumps into the pan, but I did let her do it. “It’s a job for Chef Phoebe and Chef Mommy!” she said proudly, letting a spoonful of potato fall into the eggs with an upsetting splash.
Once all the filling was added, I poured the rest of the eggs in and cut up an overripe tomato I wasn’t going to let go to waste for prettiness on top. Phoebe of course demanded to be the one to place the tomatoes on the top of the frittata. The were off-center and asymmetrical. It distressed me. She was ecstatic, even when she got egg on the side of her hand and waved it around like it was alien goo that might infect her with an interplanetary plague. I let the wonky tomato alignment go. We put the frittata into the oven to cook and she scampered off to wreak havoc someplace else.
She was less enthusiastic about eating her egg pie than she was about making it. She does not like eggs, and having helped make it didn’t do much to dissuade her of that. She dug around with her fork eating the bits of bacon and potato. Her father and I horked it down because it was crazy delicious even though a toddler helped make it.
I learned how to cook by watching my mom cook and asking questions and demanding to know why she was doing what she was doing. I hope Phoebe keeps being interested in what I’m doing in the kitchen. It’s much easier and quicker to cook without a little kid wanting to take the spoon out of your hand at every step and having to explain in simple language what a hand mixer or colander or asparagus is. Dinner can get to the table in a much neater and nicer looking fashion if I don’t let her help. I will let her help cook every time she wants to, though, for as long as she wants to, because I know at some point she’s not going to care what Mommy is doing and I should soak this up while I can. I promise you this, however: I will never serve food she helped make to anyone else. I know where her little hands have been.